Published: Tue, May 08, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Tory infighting over customs union continues

Tory infighting over customs union continues

She said the United Kingdom was "making good progress towards that goal and we will carry on doing so with resolution in the months ahead".

Mr Clark infuriated Brexiteers by warning thousands of jobs could be lost unless ministers signed up to Mrs May's plan for a customs partnership with the European Union.

While Ms May is under pressure from Brexiteers to abandon the customs partnership proposal, Conservative remainers are threatening to join opposition MPs in backing an amendment to the EU withdrawal Bill calling for Britain to remain in a customs union with the EU.

May is proposing a "hybrid" customs partnership, under which Britain will "mirror the EU's customs regime at its borders and collect tariffs on behalf of Brussels".

Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan said last week the United Kingdom has been "sent back to the drawing board".

May's failure to convince her own Cabinet on Wednesday that the United Kingdom should pursue a middle-way "customs partnership" makes that task all the harder.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, the minister said that as many as 3,500 jobs at Toyota will be at risk if no customs arrangement can be reached.

The Business Secretary was part of the Brexit "war cabinet" which failed to reach agreement on whether to back the hybrid customs partnership - which would see the United Kingdom collect import duties on behalf of the European Union for goods arriving via British ports and airports - or the so-called "maximum facilitation" model relying on the extensive use of technology to minimise checks at the border.

"Instead of listening to vested interests he should pay more attention to the 17.4 million who voted to take back control of our trade policy", the source said.

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Brussels has already rejected both of these customs models.

In a coordinated push to save plans for a customs relationship that is "as frictionless as possible" after Brexit, businesses and Tory backbenchers - including one of the ringleaders of an attempted coup against the Prime Minister a year ago - spoke up to defend the government's plans from Brexiteers led by Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The Prime Minister of Belgium has said he hopes the United Kingdom government will "water down" its Brexit red lines to safeguard trade and solve the Irish border issue.

He went on to say: "Of course business wants certainty".

United Kingdom government officials have been tasked with finding a third compromise option, with a spokesman for May saying last week that the government's policy on customs was now "evolving" as they looked at "a number of options" for resolving the issue.

Jacob Rees Mogg, the influential leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group said his colleague was engaging in "Project Fear".

One senior Brexiteer told The Telegraph: "There are genuine concerns that this delay will lead to the United Kingdom staying in the customs union permanently".

But the Prime Minister's spokesman insisted today that: "Both of the options that we have put forward are serious propositions ... we are taking time to get them right".

Although Corbyn has changed his position to back Britain being part of a customs union, which will allow it to avoid customs checks and multiple lines at the border, he remains strictly opposed to the single market or EEA membership, which is obviously worrisome for EU member states.

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