Theresa May’s Chequers proposals have come under fire from politicians at home and abroad, but she must find solutions to reduce uncertainty for businesses and stop further plummets in the value of sterling.
With 60 Conservative MPs assembled against her Chequers plan, as well as influential groups such as Leave.eu and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group, time is running out to find an alternative.
And European politicians delivered a public humiliation to Mrs May where they openly told her the Chequers proposals would not work at an informal meeting in Salzburg, Austria on September 21.
Should the Chequers deal be wiped off the negotiating table, there are three other potential solutions to the Brexit paralysis.
The first is membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) and a customs union.
This is the option favoured by former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who said the UK should have vowed to stay in the European Economic Area after the Brexit vote for a renewable five-year period to allow the debate surrounding Brexit to continue in Britain without the pressure of a “ticking clock”.
He said: “What I have been saying from day one, is the only plausible outcome that minimises costs on both sides of the English Channel is for Britain to stay in the European Economic Area, in the single market and the customs union for a five-year renewable period, that would create the continuity we need.”
The option is also favoured by the SNP who say staying in the customs union is the best outcome other than remaining in the EU.
But Brexiteers say this cannot happen as it will mean Britain will be a rule taker but not a rule maker.
Theresa May also ruled out staying in the customs union.
The second option is a customs union with a common rule book in goods regulation.
The European Union’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, speaking about the benefits of the common rule book to the EU, said: “The common rule book means that in fact when we make rules on services, on special activities, on import and export of goods, we can do that as a single market.”
However, the UK would still remain closely bound to the bloc, which would infuriate leave supporters.
The option favoured by Boris Johnson, thrusting him into the centre of a Conservative party row yesterday, is a Canada-style trade agreement, or a hard Brexit.
Mr Johnson proposed a free trade agreement in an article for the Telegraph, demanding a deal “at least as deep as the one the EU has recently concluded with Canada”.
He said this deal could ensure “zero tariffs and zero quotas” while maintaining “conformity of goods with each other’s standards”, answering fears of chlorinated chicken and other foods which don’t meet EU standards being imported from the US after Brexit.
Theresa May said this Canada-style deal would effectively break up the United Kingdom by keeping Northern Ireland in parts of the EU customs union and single market to avoid a hard border with Ireland.
It is not clear which option the UK government will choose, but all of them have significant potential drawbacks.