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Theresa May in desperate appeal to Cabinet ministers in bid to heal Brexit splits

Theresa May in desperate appeal to Cabinet ministers in bid to heal Brexit splits

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

Theresa May has implored her Cabinet ministers to trust her on Brexit amid reports that at least a dozen of them are lining up to block her chosen customs plan.

The Prime Minister told her colleagues "I will not let you down" ahead of a crunch meeting of her Brexit war Cabinet on Tuesday.

But senior figures from both the pro-Brexit and pro-EU camps are set to defy Mrs May on her calls for a so-called ‘customs partnership’ with Brussels, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

It comes amid claims Brussels could push for a six-month extension to the Brexit transition period in a bid to shore up its interests.

The customs partnership plan would see the UK collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU while operating an independent customs regime around the world.

The proposal has been rejected by pro-Brexit MPs who believe it would leave the UK too closely tied to the bloc. Instead, they support the‘maximum facilitation’ option, which would use technological solutions to police imports and exports.

Last week, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the customs partnership plan was “crazy”, earning him a slapdown from Downing Street.

But the Sunday Telegraph says at least 12 of the 28 Cabinet members could try to block the proposal - with Government sources saying the number could be as high as 15.

One Remain-voting Cabinet minister told the paper: “There is a body of people who thought it was best to remain but who think if we’re leaving we should do it properly.”

Another said: “I’m not going to support the customs partnership. My view is you are either in a customs union or you’re out. A fudge doesn’t work.

“I was on the side of Remain because I was of the view that the benefits outweighed the costs, but I’m really not in favour of taking all the costs with none of the benefits.

“The advantage of leaving is having an independent trade policy.”

But in an article for the Sunday Times, Mrs May said: “Of course, the details are incredibly complex and, as in any negotiation, there will have to be compromises.

“But if we stick to the task we will seize this once in a generation opportunity to build a stronger, fairer Britain that is respected around the world and confident and united at home.”

She added: “I will need your help and support to get there. And in return, my pledge to you is simple: I will not let you down.”

On Friday it emerged that Prime Minister has divided her ministers into separate camps to discuss the two options for replacing customs union membership, in a bid to heal divides.

Meanwhile, the Independent reports that the EU is planning to push for a six-month extension to the Brexit transition agreement in a bid to protect its own interests and give itself added flexibility.

At the moment the transition is set to end in December 2020 - with the UK government insisting it will not be extended.

But an EU source told the website: “Of course they are aware of the sensitivity around the issue in London, but it is about giving the commission more leeway if needed, at the end of the transition to get things in place.”

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