Jacob Rees-Mogg warns of 'perpetual Brexit purgatory' as ministers agree EU customs ties could last beyond 2021

Posted On: 
17th May 2018

Ministers have agreed to tell the EU that Britain is willing to stay in the customs union after 2021 - teeing up a fresh clash with Conservative eurosceptics.

"The horizon seems to be unreachable. The bottom of the rainbow seems to be unattainable."
Credit: 
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Theresa May's Brexit 'war Cabinet' this week signed off on a new 'backstop' plan to avoid a hard Irish border should the UK not have customs infrastructure in place in time for the end of the Brexit transition period in 2021.

Ministers have previously rejected EU proposals for a backstop amid demands from Brussels for continued regulatory ties.

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But Mrs May's Brexit sub-committee has now agreed to stay tied to the customs union beyond the transition period if no other solution to the Northern Ireland question can be found, according to the Telegraph.

The paper says the plan was approved despite objections from Brexit-backing cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, who eventually relented.

The plan has already drawn strong criticism from backbench Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who leads the powerful European Research Group of eurosceptics.

He told the paper that the move risked creating a fallback option that was "more attractive than a permanent deal".

Mr Rees-Mogg added: "We have gone from a clear end point, to an extension, to a proposed further extension with no end point.

"The horizon seems to be unreachable. The bottom of the rainbow seems to be unattainable. People voted to leave, they did not vote for a perpetual purgatory."

According to The Times, the backstop option would see the UK continue to collect the EU's common external tariff on behalf of Brussels - a proposal that has previously incensed eurosceptics.

But Downing Street sources insisted there was no plan to remain in a customs union in the future, and that this week's discussion had been focused squarely on the fallback option.

It comes after Mrs May reportedly confronted Mr Rees-Mogg during a Downing Street meeting over post-Brexit customs options earlier in the week and "slapped him down very hard".