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Thu, 4 June 2020

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Theresa May’s post-Brexit customs plan branded ‘basically dead’ ahead of crunch meeting

Theresa May’s post-Brexit customs plan branded ‘basically dead’ ahead of crunch meeting
2 min read

Theresa May is under growing pressure from leading Brexiters in her Cabinet to ditch Number 10’s favoured customs deal with the EU as a crunch meeting looms next week.

Under the so-called customs partnership model being considered by Downing Street, the UK would continue to collect import tariffs on behalf of the EU while being free to set its own duties for goods bound for the UK.

But both pro-Brexit ministers and the EU side believe the plan is unworkable, with Brexiters fearing it would effectively maintain the status quo on customs.

Mrs May is now being pushed by cabinet ministers including Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Michael Gove and David Davis to shelve the plan at a key meeting of her Brexit sub-committee next week.

One source told The Times: “David Davis has been with those cabinet ministers wielding the knife. I think the Brexit war cabinet next week will be its final outing but it’s basically dead.”

Another told the paper: “There is a growing consensus that it just doesn’t work. It’s already been rejected by Brussels and the Brexiteers.” Leading backbench Brexit champion Jacob Rees-Mogg this week described the plan as "completely cretinous”, while one senior pro-Leave figure dismissed Number’s 10’s favoured option as a “unicorn model” in comments to The Guardian.

The paper meanwhile reports that a group backed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is now aiming to convince Mrs May to push for the “maximum facilitation” customs model.

That would see some border checks introduced, with technological solutions drawn up to try and keep them to a minimum. Critics of that plan fear it will pile costs on business and undermine attempts to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd was yesterday forced to row back from an admission that the government was “still working” on its customs union stance.

She said: “I’m afraid I’m not going to be drawn on that; we still have a few discussions to have, in a really positive, consensual, easy way, among all my cabinet colleagues, in order to arrive at a final position.”

Ms Rudd later tweeted to say she “could have been clearer” about her remarks and that the UK would “of course” be quitting the tie-up.

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