May faces cabinet revolt over u-turn on Brexit customs union

23 April, 2018, 22:05 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • Theresa May

Theresa May is battling to avert a rebellion inside her own party amid fears of euroskeptic Tories that she will break her promise to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union's trade regime.

Just a week after facing defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords, Theresa May is reportedly facing new conflict over Brexit ahead of a Commons debate on the customs union.

As speculation mounts that May is on the verge of a U-turn, pro-Brexit ministers such as Environment Secretary Michael Gove took to Twitter to underline the need for a clean break from the bloc.

Over the weekend, reports claimed Theresa May had privately said the United Kingdom might stay in a customs union with the bloc, unable to control trade police, after unelected Peers voted to stay in such a union.

Tory former chancellor Ken Clarke told BBC Radio 4's Today: "We won't make much progress until the Irish problem is solved".

Mrs May is set to hold a meeting of her inner cabinet on Wednesday where Brexit-supporting ministers are likely to press the issue of leaving the customs union.

The EU's customs union is a trading bloc comprising the 28 member countries within which goods flow freely across borders without tariffs.

Australian Ambitions | Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and May agreed on their shared goal to form a bilateral free-trade agreement after the United Kingdom leaves the EU.

The issue of whether Britain should remain in a customs union with Brussels goes to the heart of the Brexit divide at the Conservative Party.


On Friday the Daily Telegraph reported that the European Union has roundly rejected proposals from the British government for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"The UK is coming out of the European Union", he told reporters on the sidelines of a G7 ministerial meeting in Toronto.

Leaving the customs union would also mean mandatory customs checks for every lorry between the United Kingdom and EU until a free trade deal is struck with Brussels, potentially causing major delays, Sky News reports.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said the Government needs to make the case to MPs for leaving the customs union as part of Brexit.

This would likely enrage Brexiteers, with No.10 reported to believe that worldwide trade secretary Liam Fox and foreign secretary Boris Johnson could resign.

"Businesses know that crashing out of the Customs Union will be a catastrophe for jobs and employment in this country, but the Government seems determined to drive us off the cliff regardless".

Theresa May and her team "will not be crying into our beer" if they are forced to stay in a customs union.

The Housing and Communities Secretary's comments were rebuked by the head of the CBI, Paul Drechsler, who tweeted in reply: "An MP of your talent should rise above ideology and lead based of fact, analysis and evidence - all of which favours a customs union". Another senior British official said May's cabinet hasn't yet discussed what kind of customs plan it wants, but needs to reach a decision before a key European Union summit in June.

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