Theresa May's former deputy Damian Green says PM's favoured customs plan will not happen

Posted On: 
14th May 2018

Theresa May's former deputy has predicted that her preferred option for customs links with the EU after Brexit will not happen.

Damian Green was Theresa May's deputy until being sacked.
PA Images

Damian Green said that a so-called 'maximum facilitation' arrangement with Brussels was the "most likely end point" of the negotiations, rather than the 'customs partnership' backed by the Prime Minister.

His comments, to Radio Four's Westminster Hour programme, are significant because he is seen as Mrs May's closest ally in politics.

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The remarks comes as members of the Cabinet's Brexit sub-committee prepare to meet on Tuesday in a fresh bid to agree on which of the two options to support.

Mrs May's frontbench team are deeply split over the issue, with Boris Johnson last week dismissing the customs partnership - which would see the UK continue to collect tariffs on behalf of Europe - as "crazy".

In a further blow for the Prime Minister, Environment Secretary Michael Gove told the Andrew Marr Show that the customs partnership "has flaws".

Both ministers - who were leading members of the Vote Leave campaign during the referendum - support the 'max fac' option, which would rely on technological solutions to maintain smooth trade between Britain and the EU.

Mr Green, who was sacked as de facto Deputy Prime Minister last December after a probe found he lied about porn being found on his Commons computer, said both options had "huge difficulties".

But he said: "I think the most likely end point will be what’s called ‘maximum facilitation’ - some variant of that.

"I personally am not yet convinced that you could have that in place by the end of 2020, by the end of the implementation period. And therefore you might need to bolt on to that another period - a sort of transition period into that - so we know not only that it works but that it works from day one.

"That’s really important, and I think that’s more important than any if you like ideological posturing that seems to be going on over this."

He added: "There’s no particular ideological reason why an ex-Remainer or a Brexiter should prefer one or other of these arrangements. I think, let’s get a customs arrangement that allows our trade to flow in the best way possible. This seems to me a practical problem not an ideological problem.”

Mr Green's comments on extending the transition period put him at with Michael Gove, who insisted yesterday that was a non-starter.

He said: "One of the things we need to do is crack on. We have an implementation period, that gives us an additional 21 months after we leave the European Union to get everything right.

"I think the critical thing is to meet that deadline… I don’t believe in an extension."