David Davis ‘in last-ditch bid to halt new Theresa May customs plan’ ahead of Cabinet showdown
David Davis has warned Theresa May that her latest Brexit plan is unworkable in a bid to avert a furious Cabinet clash, it has been reported.
The Brexit Secretary is said to have written a last-ditch letter to the Prime Minister telling her the so-called ‘third way’ proposal on post-Brexit customs will be point-blank rejected by Brussels.
It comes amid fears from anti-EU MPs that the Government position will be watered down - although chief whip Julian Smith reportedly told them they would not be forced to vote for a deal they do not like.
Mrs May will present her Cabinet with her new customs plan at a crunch showdown at Chequers tomorrow.
According to reports, the proposals are a mix of the two previous suggestions - both of which were rejected by Cabinet sub-committees tasked with investigating them.
The so-called facilitated customs arrangement will use tech to keep the Irish border open but will still leave the UK collecting tariffs on behalf of Europe, it has been claimed.
Downing Street is said to be confident the new plan - designed to free the UK to strike its own trade deals while still exchanging goods with the EU - offers the “best of both worlds” and has business support.
But Mr Davis told Mrs May in his letter that Brussels would not countenance a plan that would allow the UK to police the EU border, according to the Daily Telegraph.
A source told the paper: “This plan would be like Donald Trump allowing us to keep an eye on his borders for him, it will never happen.
"We need to have this row in the party now so that we have time to negotiate something bespoke with heads of state before it's too late".
The source added: “It provides unfair advantage to British companies.”
Meanwhile, the Sun reports that Mr Davis fears the customs plan would be too great a softening of the Government’s Brexit red lines and wants to harden the Prime Minister’s stance.
“It’s a choice about strategy. Do you be extremely reasonable and adjust, or do you face down the EU?” a pro-Brexit figure told the paper.
“They will come to us eventually, we just need to hold our nerve.”
FACILITATED CUSTOMS PLAN
The facilitated customs arrangement would see the UK collecting the correct level of tariff at the border for most goods regardless of whether they are bound for the UK or the EU - a marked difference from the previous plan.
Technology would allow the Government to determine in advance where 96% of the goods are headed - while tariffs on the remaining 4% of goods will have to be rejigged later, as per the old plan.
A Number 10 source told the Times: “This is a serious proposal that addresses the legitimate concerns of the EU as well as the new for the UK to be able to sign free trade deals.
“It takes the best bits of both models and ensures a friction-free border in Northern Ireland while at the same time allowing businesses to benefit.”
But eurosceptic MPs have already raised concerns about the plan - in particular suggestions it could involve keeping the UK in a single market on goods.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chair of the European Research Group of Conservative backbenchers, told the BBC such a plan would be “really foolish”.
But according to the Times, chief whip Julian Smith told Mr Rees-Mogg and his allies in a meeting yesterday: “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to vote for it.”
Mrs May will travel to Berlin today to discuss the new customs proposal with chancellor Angela Merkel.