Theresa May 'secures Brexit deal that will keep UK in a customs union'
Theresa May has clinched a Brexit deal that will allow her to keep the whole of the UK in a customs union with the EU to protect the Irish border, it has been reported.
The secret agreement will come with an “exit clause” to placate pro-Brexit MPs, while the prospect of a Canada-style free trade agreement with the bloc will be kept open, according to the Sunday Times.
It comes as former Brexit secretary David Davis urges the Prime Minister to publish any legal advice she receives about the final deal to assure MPs the plan is water-tight.
Preparations for an agreement with the EU are more advanced than thought and will result in a more detailed agreement than previously expected, the paper says.
Cabinet sources said parts of the plan “could have been written by Jacob Rees-Mogg” - leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group of Tory MPs.
But the concession from Brussels on a customs union - designed to avoid an EU-designed backstop that would split Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK - could please pro-Remain Tory and Labour MPs.
The Sunday Times said a close aide to chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier admitted this week that regulatory checks on goods can take place “in the market” by British officials and away from the Irish border.
The paper says Mrs May will sell the final agrement by telling her pro-Brexit ministers they will be personally responsible for causing a no-deal Brexit if they fail to back her.
But a number of Cabinet ministers have warned they will not sign up to the plan unless it has the blessing of Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.
Mr Cox has been drafted in as a permanent member of the so-called ‘War Cabinet’ of ministers on Brexit after demands from colleagues, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
A No 10 spokesperson told the Sunday Times: “This is all speculation. The Prime Minister has been clear that we are making good progress on the future relationship and 95% of the withdrawal agreement is now settled. Negotiations are ongoing.”
It comes as tensions with Ireland over Brexit were laid bare when Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the possible risks to the Good Friday Agreement were leading to frayed relations.
'DO NOT APE BLAIR'
Meanwhile, Mr Davis has warned the PM she will find herself in the same “mess” as Tony Blair did over the Iraq war if she fails to publish legal advice on her Brexit plans before MPs vote on it.
Mr Blair refused to reveal the advice from his attorney general Lord Goldsmith ahead of the conflict - but it was leaked in 2005 and showed the minister had doubts over the legality of the war.
Mr Davis wrote in the Sunday Times: “It’s now time to publish the legal advice the cabinet has received — no ifs and no buts.
“Blair suffered because he wriggled and prevaricated. I would urge the Prime Minister to do the right thing and publish the advice; if she won’t, the Cabinet should exert its collective authority to compel her to do so.
“We need the cards laid on the table so that we can form a judgment. Is the future of the union at stake? Are we being hurtled towards a Hotel California Brexit where we can check out, but we can never leave?"