Brexit: Downing Street insists United Kingdom will still leave customs union

Rees-Mogg

Rees-Mogg

"We will not be staying in the Customs Union or joining a customs union", a Downing Street source said Monday.

Protesters wave the EU and Union flags outside the Palace of Westminster in London, Britain, December 20, 2017. European officials also see staying in the customs arrangement as a potential solution to the otherwise intractable issue of how to avoid a hard border between the United Kingdom and Ireland after Brexit.

Theresa May's government faced their first defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords last week when peers voted in favour staying in the customs union.

Senior Brexit-supporting ministers are likely to make their case for breaking free of the European Union rules directly to the prime minister when she holds a key meeting of her inner cabinet on Wednesday, one official said.

May faces debates and votes on the customs union in the House of Commons on Wednesday and Thursday, though they will be advisory rather than binding. It would also avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The report focuses on one of the two possible options put forward by Mrs May last month that would involve the United Kingdom imposing the same checks as the European Union when goods arrive at its borders that are destined for the EU.

Theresa May faces more headaches from MPs as she struggles with her Brexit vision.

The paper also reported that key pro-Brexit government ministers such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, and Brexit Secretary David Davis were concerned that May would choose an option that would "encourage Brussels to press for Britain to stay in a customs union after Brexit".

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has piled pressure on Mrs May by demanding that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill returns to the Commons this week.

But Eurosceptic former Cabinet minister John Redwood told Today the customs union was a "protection racket" and it was "extremely good news" that the Prime Minister was not softening her position.

Among Leave voters, just 8% think Britain is better off economically in Europe, while almost a quarter of these voters (23%) think we should continue to be part of the Single Market.

Last week's defeat, the first of two on that day, increased pressure on May to reconsider her refusal to remain in a customs union with the EU.

Hardline Brexiteer Conservative MPs have privately warned the prime minister that any further retreat on Brexit could lead to an attempt to topple her. "We can make that case to Parliament, we can win that case". Opponents say it would stop Britain from being able to sign new free trade deals after Brexit, while supports argue it would protect jobs and go some way to preserving the invisible Irish border.

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