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MPs will vote down backstop plan that leaves UK 'trapped' in EU's orbit, Andrea Leadsom warns Theresa May

4 min read

A Brexit backstop plan that leaves Britain "trapped" in the EU's customs orbit would not be "sellable" to Parliament, Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom has warned Theresa May.

The Commons Leader and top Cabinet Brexiteer insisted the Prime Minister had her "full support" amid reports she could be poised to quit the Government over the plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

But she warned Mrs May that the Prime Minister would struggle to get a deal through the House of Commons if her plan does not include strict limits on back-up plans to keep close customs ties with the EU.

A number of Cabinet ministers are said to have raised concerns that the the "backstop" plan in its current form does not include a time limit or allow the UK to unilaterally pull out of the arrangement.

The backstop - designed to avoid new checks coming in at the Northern Ireland border - would only come into force if the two sides fail to agree a permanent fix for the frontier.

But it remains the major sticking point in talks with the EU and has become a key flashpoint for Tory anger at Mrs May's plans.

Asked if she could quit the Government over the issue, Ms Leadsom told Pienaar's Politics on 5 Live: "I am working towards getting a deal that does not require the UK to be stuck, trapped in a customs arrangement.

"That's what I'm working towards. And I'm sticking in the government to make sure that's where we get to in the end. And I'm absolutely determined about that."

But she added: "I'm also very clear that I don't think something that trapped the UK in any arrangement against our will would be sellable to members of Parliament."

The leading Cabinet Brexiteer said Mrs May had her "absolute support in fulfilling the will of the people at the referendum".

However, she heaped fresh pressure on the Prime Minister as she made it clear that her own vision of Brexit included clear restrictions on the backstop plan.

"I - as do the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU - have certain requirements of leaving the EU which of course means that we can't be kept forever in a customs arrangement and that we don't break up our United Kingdom," she said. "And the Prime Minister has been very clear that neither of those things will happen."

Ms Leadsom meanwhile described herself as a "pragmatic politician" as she sought to downplay speculation she could storm out of the Government.

"I am absolutely determined that we leave the EU," Ms Leadsom said.

"And so the issue of what I might or might not do doesn't come up because I'm determined that we get a deal that does deliver on the will of the people. And that's what I'm working towards. So I'm not kind of playing games with what I might or might not do."


The latest intervention from the Commons Leader came as fellow Cabinet minister Damian Hinds urged his colleagues not to risk a no-deal Brexit by torpedoing Mrs May's plans.

The Education Secretary told the Andrew Marr Show: “We have to see what comes back and of course everybody is Parliament will be looking at that very closely and they need to think about, you know, what's right for the future of our country.

"They also need to think about what the alternatives are. And actually I'm very confident the deal that comes back will be a good one and it'll be one that members of Parliament will want to support."

Mrs May - who was hit by the resignation of pro-Remain minister Jo Johnson on Friday - is also under renewed pressure from the Democratic Unionist Party on whom her government relies to shelve its Northern Ireland proposals.

A joint op-ed between the DUP's Sammy Wilson and leading Tory Brexiteer Steve Baker today warned Mrs May that both sides stood ready to vote her deal down.

The pair wrote: "If the Government makes the historic mistake of prioritising placating the EU over establishing an independent and whole UK, then regrettably we must vote against the deal.”

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