Senior members of Boris Johnson’s Government will decamp from London on Brexit day to hold a special Cabinet meeting in the North of England.
The symbolic gesture as the country leaves the EU is designed to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to closing the North-South divide, and will be a nod to many voters in the North who helped secure Brexit in the 2016 referendum.
But No 10 would not reveal yesterday exactly where the meeting would be held.
The Cabinet meeting is one part of a swathe of plans to mark Brexit day on January 31, including a Downing Street light show streamed on social media, and Union Jack flags flying in Parliament Square.
Mr Johnson is also expected to address the nation in the evening, and the commemorative Brexit coin will come into circulation on the day.
The Prime Minister is expected to be one of the first to receive the new coin, which reads “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”.
But the jubilant mood projected by the Government is not shared in the EU, as the European Parliament’s Brexit Co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt warned a free trade agreement will be “very difficult” to secure if Britain does not sign up to honouring Brussels’ rules on standards.
He said the scope of a trade deal during the upcoming negotiations would depend on Mr Johnson’s “willingness to comply with a number of standards of the European Union”.
Asked what would happen if Britain does not sign up to such stipulations, he said: “It will be very difficult to have a broad free trade agreement at that moment.”
The Prime Minister has previously ruled out following rules set by the EU after the transition period is over at the end of 2020.
Former Belgian Prime Minister Mr Verhofstadt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think both sides have an interest to be very ambitious. “But how far this will go is very difficult to say.”