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Brexiteer fury as Theresa May touts 'tweaked and rebadged' version of controversial customs plan

Brexiteer fury as Theresa May touts 'tweaked and rebadged' version of controversial customs plan
3 min read

Theresa May risks sparking Cabinet outrage amid reports she is planning to make a fresh attempt to push a controversial plan for post-Brexit customs ties with Brussels.

Senior cabinet ministers including Brexit secretary David Davis are known to be against the 'customs partnership' plan being floated by Number 10, with eurosceptics arguing that it will hobble future trade deals with countries outside of the EU and reduce the UK to collecting tariffs on behalf of Brussels.

Proponents argue that it provides the best way of avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland and could soften the impact of Brexit on businesses.

But the plan ran into serious trouble at a meeting of top ministers this week, with the so-called Brexit 'war cabinet' siding 6-5 against the proposals after new Home Secretary Sajid Javid made his opposition known.

According to The Sunday Times, however, Mrs May wil present a “tweaked and rebadged” version of the same proposal at a fresh meeting on Thursday, and will urge ministers to fall in line behind the proposals.

The paper says that the Prime Minister is prepared to sideline the Brexit sub-committee and instead put the proposals to her full Cabinet. Such a plan is likely to trigger a furious reaction from pro-Brexit ministers.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Mrs May is focusing her efforts on winning round Mr Javid and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson with a series of "improvements" to the proposals.

But a Cabinet source told the paper it would be "unimaginable" for the Prime Minister to continue pushing the plan after it had been "torn apart by members of her own Brexit committee".

They added: “Overruling the committee would see many Brexiteers lose faith in the current leadership. The PM should instead adopt the [highly streamlined] option and not try to force through a plan which would fail to meet the promises made during the referendum and in the Tory manifesto."

Leading Tory eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg has meanwhile insisted he remains loyal to Theresa May, after his powerful backbench European Research Group urged the Prime Minister to ditch the customs partnership plan or lose its backing.

He told Sky News: "I believe that politicians should implement the promises that they've given in manifestos.

"So all I've been doing - and other members of the European Research Group have been doing - is encouraging the government to stick to the promises it has made and the Prime Minister Theresa May has made very clear in her various speeches, whether it's the Lancaster House, Florence or Mansion House speech.

"So we are very consistent with government policy, we are supporting the government implementing its policy in the face of a lot of opposition from other sources, particularly at the moment the House of Lords."

Writing in The Sun on Sunday, Mrs May reiterated her "absolute determination to make a success of Brexit" by leaving both the customs union and the single market.

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