Theresa May refuses to rule out quitting if she loses Commons Brexit showdown with Tory rebels
Theresa May has refused to rule out quitting if she loses a showdown Commons vote against Conservative rebels on the customs union.
The Prime Minister will face a major test of her leadership if an amendment to the Trade Bill tabled by pro-EU Tory Anna Soubry is put to a vote when it returns to the House in the coming weeks.
It pledges to keep the UK in ‘a’ customs union after Brexit - while the Government has vowed to quit the customs union as well as the single market.
In a big speech on Friday Mrs May said near-frictionless trade could be secured through a customs arrangement that would “ensure that the relevant UK regulatory standards remain at least as high as the EU’s”.
There have been rumours that the Prime Minister could turn the potential Commons face-off into a motion of confidence on her leadership in an attempt to use the threat of a possible change of government as an incentive for rebels to play ball.
Asked on the BBC Andrew Marr show if she would be able to continue in the job if she lost such a vote, Mrs May dodged the question.
“What we are doing in looking at the customs issue as these various bills are going through parliament is saying 'what is the right kind of customs arrangement for the UK to have with the EU in future that ensures that we can have tariff free and as frictionless trade as poss across the border?'” she said.
“We need to do that in any case but of course we need to do that for the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
“What I’ve set out [on Friday] is a customs arrangement that achieves that - now I want to get on with discussing it with the European Union.”
She added: “We’ll be having a discussion in the House of Commons because what I’ve set out today in terms of a future customs arrangement with the EU I think is what most people actually want to see.
“What I think is of concern for a lot of people is making sure we have that trade across the border which is as frictionless as possible.”
Elsewhere in her interview, Mrs May said financial services would be part of a new trade deal with the EU after Brexit - rejecting a mooted plan to secure ‘passport’ rights for banks to trade freely across borders.
"If we were to accept passporting, we'd just be a rule taker,” she explained.
And she said agriculture and fisheries were regulatory areas where the UK might choose to diverge with the bloc after Brexit.