The British government yesterday published its long-awaited Brexit blueprint that it hopes will restart talks with the EU, but its launch was mired in farce after a protest by MPs briefly suspended a sitting of the House of Commons.
The policy paper, which sets out plans for close economic ties with the bloc after Britain leaves the EU in March, had already sparked two ministerial resignations and revived talk of a revolt against May.
When Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab stood up to present the plan in the Commons, MPs loudly complained they had not seen a copy beforehand -- prompting the speaker to suspend proceedings for five minutes to allow them to obtain one.
Raab, who was appointed on Monday after his predecessor David Davis quit, then continued his statement, describing the proposal on offer as "innovative".
It suggests a free trade area and "common rule book" with the EU in goods after pressure from businesses to allow cross-border trade to continue as normal.
Britain would still leave the EU single market and customs union and set its own path on the far bigger services sector, hoping to be able to curb EU immigration and strike its own trade deals with third countries.
For the City of London the plan would accept that firms lose their "passporting" rights to operate in the EU, but seeks a hybrid arrangement.
Catherine McGuinness, head of policy for the City of London Corporation, said the proposals represented a "real blow" for finance firms.
The plan has also caused outrage among eurosceptic members of May's Conservative party, and foreign minister Boris Johnson joined Davis in dramatically quitting this week in protest.
Their departures, followed by a clutch of junior aides, destabilised May's government and revived talk of a leadership challenge.
"What we are doing is delivering on the vote of the British people... that's what our proposal does," she told reporters at a Nato summit in Brussels.
The prime minister is also likely to face some opposition in Brussels, where officials have repeatedly warned Britain to lower its expectations about how close ties can be.