May warned over customs partnership ahead of Brexit 'war cabinet' meeting

03 May, 2018, 16:59 | Author: Mable Gonzales
  • Brexit news- Nina Schick and Jonathan Isaby

British Prime Minister Theresa May indicated on Wednesday she was looking at new options for post-Brexit customs arrangements with the European Union after the threat of a revolt by eurosceptic rebels that could bring down her government.

A second senior government official said there was just one week to resolve the matter, with the clock ticking down to June's European Council meeting, where both Brussels and Dublin say they expect substantial progress toward a solution to the Irish border issue for Brexit talks to progress at all.

Tory peer Lord Patten, a staunch Remainer, had said their proposal to abandon trade alignment with the European Union would make a hard border in Northern Ireland inevitable.

The UK would collect tariffs set by the EU customs union on goods coming into the UK on behalf of the EU.

But Brexiteers feared the move would leave the United Kingdom too closely tied to Brussels after Brexit, effectively remaining in an EU customs union. Housing minister Dominic Raab said "maxfac" appeared to be winning "in terms of delivering the two things that we need, which is to stay out of the customs union, but also avoid the hard border, as a matter of principle but also workability'".

She also faces increasingly urgent demands from Brussels to come up with a customs plan to avoid a return to a hard border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. One of those who spoke, on condition of anonymity, about the meeting, said there had been agreement that there were problems with both of the models under consideration.

European Union tariffs would be collected by British officials and paid back to Brussels.

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Without a third way, both proposals are effectively "dead", the second United Kingdom official said.

During the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, new boy and Remain voter Javid is said to have sided with hard Brexiters Liam Fox, David Davis, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Either way, the replacement of former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, a champion of the soft Brexit argument, with Javid looks to have been pivotal.

He added: "We're not in the business of making threats". Both are fundamentally split, with each side strong enough to block a plan, but not to push one through.

Chair of the Committee Dr Andrew Murrison MP said he was repeating an invitation first made in March, and that "to date, we have not seen a worked up, coherent proposals that would allow the United Kingdom to be freed from the structures of the Customs Union and Single Market and avoid additional infrastructure at the border".

On 26 April, the House of Commons held a debate on the customs union issue in their Liaison Committee, which saw members review concerns such as what May's customs union proposals would mean for the UK's ability to negotiate future trade accords with interested third parties.

The EU does not appear to be keen on either option.

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