Fresh Cabinet turmoil as Boris Johnson attacks Theresa May's 'crazy' post-Brexit customs plan

Posted On: 
8th May 2018

Boris Johnson last night launched a blistering attack on the “crazy” post-Brexit customs plan being pushed by Theresa May.

Boris Johnson is on a two-day visit to Washington
PA Images

In an astonishing intervention, the Foreign Secretary said the so-called ‘customs partnership’ option would create “a whole new web of bureaucracy” and would not constitute “taking back control” from Brussels.

It comes amid reports the Prime Minister will delay a Cabinet showdown over the plans for another week.

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Cabinet ministers have been at war over the proposals in recent weeks - but until last night the rows had largely been kept behind closed doors.

Pro-Brexit MPs are desperate to kill off the plan, which would see the UK collecting trade tariffs on behalf of Brussels while operating its own customs system.

They were left furious at the weekend when Business Secretary Greg Clark warned thousands of jobs could be lost if the UK did not strike the right customs regime with the bloc.

During a visit to Washington, Mr Johnson blasted: “If you have the new customs partnership, you have a crazy system whereby you end up collecting the tariffs on behalf of the EU at the UK frontier.

“If the EU decides to impose punitive tariffs on something the UK wants to bring in cheaply there’s nothing you can do.

“That’s not taking back control of your trade policy, it’s not taking back control of your laws, it’s not taking back control of your borders.

“And it’s actually not taking back control of your money either, because tariffs would get paid centrally back to Brussels.”

He added, in the interview with the Daily Mail: “It’s totally untried and would make it very, very difficult to do free trade deals.”

His attack is the first public display of full-throated Cabinet opposition to the proposal. It comes after his Brexit-backing colleague Michael Gove said he “agreed” with an analysis which damned the plan.


Elsewhere, Mr Johnson launched a thinly-veiled swipe at Mr Clark, arguing Cabinet colleagues should not be “succumbing to a sort of Project Fear mark 2,3,4,5,6”.

Mrs May’s Brexit war Cabinet rejected the ‘customs partnership’ plan last week. But reports at the weekend suggested she will revamp the proposals and push for them again.

A report in the Financial Times yesterday said the Prime Minister has warned colleagues to back the proposal or risk being pushed into a full customs union by MPs.

She was expected to try to force through a revised version at the Brexit Cabinet sub-committee on Thursday, but according to the Times the discussion will now take place a week on Wednesday.

Eurosceptics want to see the UK go for a ‘maximum facilitation’ option, which would use technology and so-called ‘trusted trader’ schemes to try and keep trade friction to a minimum.

Brexit Secretary David Davis admitted last week that Brussels had reacted coolly to both of the proposals being thrashed out by the Cabinet.