Theresa May dealt huge blow as Cabinet Brexiteers block her customs union plan

Posted On: 
2nd May 2018

Theresa May's authority has been dealt a fresh blow after Cabinet Brexiteers blocked her preferred plan for a new trading arrangement with the European Union.

Sajid Javid told Theresa May that her customs partnership plan should be ditched.
Credit: 
PA Images

A meeting of the Cabinet's sub-committee on Brexit broke up without any agreement on what should happen when the UK eventually leaves the customs union.

But it is almost certain that Mrs May's hopes of getting her most senior ministers to back a so-called "customs partnership", which would see Britain collect tariffs on the EU's behalf, have been dashed.

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Instead, a majority of the 11 ministers in attendance - including new Home Secretary Sajid Javid - supported the "maximum facilitation" option, which is based on technological solutions to ensure smooth trade with Europe and, crucially, no hard Irish border.

It means that with less than six months to go until Mrs May hopes to agree a final Brexit deal, her government still does not have a clear plan for its future trading relationship with the bloc.

The Prime Minister had earlier told MPs that there were "a number of ways" of maintaining frictionless trade with the EU after Brexit while also avoiding a hard Irish border - despite previously insisting she was only considering two possible alternations.

She said: "We will be leaving the customs union, we want to ensure that we can have an independent trade policy. We also want to ensure that we're committed to delivering on our commitment of no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and have as frictionless trade as possible with the European Union.

"There are a number of ways in which that can be delivered."

Critics mocked Mrs May for failing to reach an agreement with her warring Cabinet.

Labour MP Stephen Doughty of People’s Vote campaign for a second EU referendum, said: "The Government's negotiation with itself is going about as well as its negotiations with the EU.

"With less than six months to go before the final Brexit deal is supposed to be agreed, ministers are still fighting among themselves about which of their two discredited customs proposals to persist with.

"Our European negotiating partners, who have for good reason already dismissed both proposals as unworkable, must be baffled as to what on earth the Government wants."

Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP and supporter of the pro-EU Best For Britain campaign, said: "We are 331 days until UK becomes a third country under EU law, and the Government can’t decide between two options already rejected by the other side of the negotiation. It is farcical.

"The Brexit war cabinet is more like a warring cabinet that is split completely down the middle. They have no plan and no clue."