Theresa May to table fresh Brexit customs proposals in bid to break Irish deadlock

Posted On: 
17th May 2018

Theresa May is to publish fresh proposals for avoiding a hard border in Ireland in a last-ditch attempt to break the Brexit deadlock.

Theresa May is battling to save the Brexit negotiations from collapse.
PA Images

The Prime Minister told EU chiefs, as well as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, that the so-called "backstop" plans will be produced within the next fortnight.

The proposals - which would only be implemented if no withdrawal agreement can be reached - would keep Britain in a customs union with the EU beyond the post-Brexit transition period, which ends on 31 December, 2020.

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It emerged on Wednesday night that the plan had been agreed at this week's meeting of Mrs May's Brexit war Cabinet, despite opposition from Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

The Prime Minister has previously dismissed the EU's own backstop plans, which would effectively have kept Britain in the customs union and single market, as "unacceptable".

Following talks with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council president Donald Tusk in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Thursday, a Downing Street spokesman said: "The PM said the UK would be shortly putting forward its own backstop proposal in relation to customs."

On separate talks with Leo Varadkar, the spokesman said: "They agreed on their shared commitment to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and on the need to continue talks on the way forward."

Speaking afterwards, Mr Varadkar said: "I said to the Prime Minister that any move that helped to align all of the EU and the UK in terms of customs into the future would be beneficial.

"It would help solve some of the problems related to the border but not all of them. It would certainly help us continue to trade between Britain and Ireland much as we do now."

He added: "The Prime Minister gave me an insight into some new thinking the UK government as in relation to customs. Obviously, we'll see how that develops. We haven't been able to get any detail on that yet, but certainly any move on customs that brings the UK closer to the EU is to be welcomed.

"But I very much emphasised that resolving the issue of avoiding a hard border requires more than just customs."

However, Mrs May is already facing a backlash from Brexiteers on the Conservative backbenches.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "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."