Government minister admits customs union with EU 'most likely outcome' of Labour talks

Posted On: 
8th April 2019

A senior minister has risked reigniting deep Tory splits by admitting a post-Brexit customs union with the EU is "the most likely outcome" of crunch talks with Labour.

Robert Buckland is the Solicitor General

Solicitor general Robert Buckland spoke out as negotiations between the Government and opposition are expected to continue ahead of a crucial EU summit on Wednesday.

In a direct video address to voters on Sunday, Theresa May said there was a need for "compromise on both sides" if a deal was to be struck.

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The Prime Minister has consistently ruled out a customs union - a key Labour demand in the talks.

But speaking on Radio Four's Westminster Hour on Sunday, Mr Buckland said that would probably end up being the area where an agreement can be reached.

He said: "Whilst I don’t pretend it’s ideal – I think there are some real drawbacks with it – it does mean we deliver the end to freedom of movement and it does mean that we deliver the vast majority of, I think, the aims of Brexit, which was to leave the institutions of the European Union.

"It’s not perfect, but frankly in this particular hung parliament none of us can get perfection, we need to compromise… something approximating a customs arrangement or customs union I think would be the most likely outcome."

In her video, filmed in 10 Downing Street, Mrs May said the public wanted to see politicians "working together more often" and talked up areas of common ground between herself and Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit.

The negotiations appeared to be on the verge of collapse ahead of the weekend, with Labour saying it was "disappointed that the Government has not offered real change or compromise."

But Mrs May said Britain now faced a choice between "either leaving the European Union with a deal or not leaving at all" after Parliament repeatedly rejected her own deal.

"That means we need to get a deal over the line," she said. "And that's why we've been looking for new ways, a new approach to find an agreement in Parliament and that means cross-party talks.

"And when you think about it, people didn't vote on party lines when it came to the Brexit referendum. And you know, I think often that members of the public want to see their politicians working together more often."

Mrs May added: "Now there's lots of things on which I disagree with the Labour party on policy issues, but on Brexit I think there are some things we agree on.

"Ending free movement, ensuring we leave with a good deal, protecting jobs, protecting security. And so we're talking.

"Can we find a way through this that ensures we can get a good deal and a deal agreed in Parliament?

"It'll mean compromise on both sides, but I believe that delivering Brexit is the most important thing for us."




Britain is currently due to leave the EU on Friday, but Mrs May will this week travel to Brussels to make the case for an extension to 30 June - with the option of an earlier exit on 22 May if a deal can be agreed.

But writing in the Telegraph, former Cabinet minister Boris Johnson claimed Jeremy Corbyn was "not fit to govern" and said it was "utterly incredible that he has now been invited into Downing Street to negotiate a Brexit deal".

"In order to get Corbyn onside, the Government is apparently willing to abandon the cardinal principle and central logic of Brexit," he said.

Mr Johnson added: "If the UK were to commit to remaining in the Customs Union, it would make a total and utter nonsense of the referendum result.

"We would be out of the EU, but in many ways still run by the EU. It would be the worst of both worlds, not just now, but forever – and that is why I find the news so appalling that I don’t really believe it."