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Theresa May urged to sack top Brexit adviser Olly Robbins ahead of customs union showdown

2 min read

Theresa May has been warned she faces a "very swift and very violent reaction" from the Tory backbenches if she continues to take advice on Brexit from her top civil servant.

The Prime Minister faces a tense showdown with her Brexit 'war cabinet' on Wednesday, when she is expected to put forward a plan backed by her Number 10 adviser Olly Robbins to create a customs partnership with the EU.

The plan would see the UK collect import tariffs on behalf of Brussels, while being free to set its own duties for goods bound for the UK.

But pro-Brexit Conservatives have branded the plan unworkable and say it will allow Brussels to dictate UK trade policy. Brexit Secretary David Davis was this weekend reported to be on the brink of quitting if Mrs May does not shelve the proposal.

According to The Sunday Times, Mr Davis has now told the Prime Minister to ignore Mr Robbins in favour of her ministers, while pro-Brexit business group Leave Means Leave has called for him to be sacked and "replaced by someone from outside the civil service who will take a tough line with Brussels".

Richard Tice and John Longworth of the Brexit-backing business group write: "At each stage, Robbins has presided over a bungled negotiating position on behalf of the UK, giving leverage to the EU and acquiescing to their every whim in a way no business person would do."

Mr Robbins, a Whitehall high-flyer sometimes tipped as a future Cabinet Secretary, was moved from Mr Davis' Brexit department into Number 10 last year as Mrs May sought to take greater control over the process.

But one former minister told The Sunday Times that Tory backbenchers could be willing to oust Mrs May if she does not stop listening to her adviser on the customs partnership plan.

"The Prime Minister would be extraordinarily unwise to take Robbins’ advice on this," they told the paper. "There will be a very swift and very violent reaction. It will put the Prime Minister in personal peril."

The threats come amid new reports that Britain is drawing up plans to keep in place a "very similar" post-Brexit migration system for EU citizens.

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