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‘England match will be easier than Brexit meeting’

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
A protest by anti-Brexit campaigners, People’s Vote, outside Parliament (Getty)

England’s World Cup clash with Colombia will be a walk in the park compared to a crunch meeting of ministers over Brexit, it was claimed in the European Parliament on Tuesday.

The Three Lions last-16 match against the skilful South Americans comes two days before Theresa May takes her Cabinet to Chequers to hammer out a united Brexit vision.

The prime minister is set to pitch a “new plan” for the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU to ministers that she then hopes to publish in a white paper and pitch to the EU.

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But European parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt tipped England manager Gareth Southgate to make more progress this week.

‘We’re waiting for the white paper from the British government after the chequers meeting,” he told MEPs in Strasbourg.

“I hope that the match between England and Colombia is less violent than the meeting in Chequers, but we will see in the coming days.”

It’s not the first time the former Belgian premier has brought football in Brexit.

When Farage recently claimed Belgium isn’t a real county, Verhofstaft told the UKIP MEP he would be proved wrong when England met his country at the World Cup.

His latest comments come after the Conservative party descended into a new round of infighting ahead of the Chequers showdown.

Brexit-supporting backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg threatened a rebellion against May if there is any weakening of her ‘red lines’.

Rees-Mogg was ordered to “pipe down” by Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan on Monday. But his boss, foreign secretary Boris Johnson, subsequently stuck up for the rebel.

May knows she needs to urgently agree a plan after effectively being called out on the delay at last week’s EU leaders’ summit.

Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said: “I think it would have been helpful if they’d had that white paper two years ago.”

European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU cannot keep dealing with a “split Cabinet.”

The deadline for a Brexit deal is October and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has warned “huge and serious differences” still exist between the parties.

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