David Davis 'could quit over customs union' as Theresa May doubles down
David Davis is on the brink of quitting the Cabinet if Theresa May does not shelve her plans for a post-Brexit ‘customs partnership’ with the EU, it has been reported.
Friends of the Brexit Secretary told the Daily Express that the Cabinet heavyweight was “extremely frustrated” with the Government’s approach to leaving the EU and “feels he has been cut out of the decisions.”
The paper cites a senior Tory MP who says Mr Davis is increasingly angry with the Prime Minister’s top civil service Brexit adviser Olly Robbins, who is said to be pushing the customs partnership plan in the teeth of strong opposition from arch-Brexiters.
“David has told me he is on the brink of resigning,” the source tells the paper. “He is completely fed up. Policy is being completely directed by Olly Robbins who does not support Brexit and has pushed this ridiculous customs partnership proposal.
“I think he [Davis] feels he can’t achieve anything anymore the way things are and fears that he may get blamed to an unacceptable fudge which could be extremely damaging.”
A source in the Brexit department pushed back, however, telling the Express: “This is nonsense. No one is more committed to seeing Brexit through than DD. He's going nowhere, despite what anonymous mischief making remoaners might fantasise about.”
According to The Sun’s James Forsyth, Theresa May has been urged to back down from her customs partnership plan - in which the UK would collect duties on behalf of the EU - eight times.
The issue is likely to come to a head at Wednesday’s crunch meeting of her powerful Brexit sub-committee. Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond are said to be supporting the proposal as a way to avoid imposing a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Chief Whip Julian Smith has reportedly told the PM that she does not have the votes in the House of Commons to leave the customs union.
In a further dent to Mrs May's authority on the issue, senior pro-EU figures have told PoliticsHome that a more concerted campaign for a second public vote on the issue is likely to occur over the summer, with senior Conservative party figures expected to join the campaign.
Meanwhile Business Insider reports that the CBI - Britain’s largest business group, has said the Department for International Trade is not equipped to roll over 40 free trade deals after Brexit, amid fears of significant job losses and bankrupt companies.
But Sir Lockwood Smith, New Zealand’s former High Commissioner warned that Brexit would be pointless unless the UK left the customs unions.
Speaking to The Telegraph, he said: “I would be deeply saddened if UK remained in a customs union because were that to happen it would be a guaranteed lose-lose situation. You’d be better off staying in the EU.”