UK produces new Brexit customs model

UK produces new Brexit customs model

  • 2 July 2018
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Media captionMay: Brexit means Brexit does mean Brexit

Theresa May has insisted the UK will leave the customs union and single market while maintaining a "close relationship" with the EU after Brexit.

Updating MPs on negotiations, she urged the EU to consider her blueprint for future relations - due to be published next week - "seriously".

The BBC understands No 10 has produced a third model for handling customs, to be discussed by ministers on Friday.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has defended the right of MPs to "air their views".

On Twitter the foreign secretary defended Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg - who has warned Mrs May of a revolt if the type of Brexit she promised is not delivered - describing Mr Rees-Mogg as a "principled and dedicated MP".

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, and negotiations are taking place on what the future relationship between the UK and the EU will look like.

Theresa May hopes to resolve cabinet splits on the shape of Brexit at this week's meeting at her Chequers country retreat.

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After the cabinet gathering, the UK will publish a White Paper setting out "in more detail what strong partnership the United Kingdom wants to see with the European Union in the future".

Pressed to give more detail of her plans as she took questions in the Commons, Mrs May said she hoped her vision for the UK's future relations would address the "real differences" on the issue of the Irish border.

"The EU and its member states will want to consider our proposals seriously," she said. "We both need to show flexibility to build the deep relationship after we have left that is in the interests of both our peoples."

Image caption Jacob Rees-Mogg said Eurosceptic MPs would reject a deal that did not amount to a clean break

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the cabinet was irrevocably split between different Tory factions.

But Mrs May rejected calls to "pick a side" between Remainers and Brexiteers, saying: "I have picked the side of the British people and these are the ones for whom I will deliver."

And asked by Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne whether "Brexit will be recognisable as Brexit", she said despite jokes about her saying "Brexit means Brexit... it does mean Brexit".

She is also due to have talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the Chequers meeting.

The PM's official spokesman refused to be drawn on there being a third customs model saying: "There is going to be a lot of speculation between now and Chequers. Some of it might even be true, but I'm not going to engage in advance of the away-day taking place."

The EU's view?

The BBC's Brussels reporter Adam Fleming

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Image caption Mrs May hopes to resolve cabinet splits on Brexit at a meeting this week

Sources in both the European Council and the European Commission deny they have seen a draft of the UK's Brexit White Paper.

Officials in Brussels predict it will mostly be a compilation of existing British positions - "a best of" is how one described it.

Theresa May "hinted" at the publication of the document when she addressed EU leaders at their summit last week but she did not elaborate on its contents.

Ministers from the remaining 27 member states are planning to respond to the White Paper at a meeting of the General Affairs Council on 20 July.

EU officials expect to be going through the document until the end of July.

The government had talked publicly about two potential customs options.

One, a customs partnership, would mean the UK applies the EU's own tariffs and rules of origin to all goods arriving in the country and then hands over what was owed for goods that subsequently end up in the EU.

The other, known as maximum facilitation or max-fac, aimed to employ new technology to remove the need for physical customs checks where possible.

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It is understood both options have been deemed practically or politically undeliverable and a third option is on the table, believed to involve "alignment" with the EU in regulations covering trade in goods but a looser relationship for services.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph earlier, Mr Rees-Mogg said he and other members of the 60-strong group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs he leads, known as the European Research Group, would reject a deal that did not amount to a clean break with the EU.

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Media captionWhat is the EU customs union?

Mr Rees-Mogg said a deal which restricted the UK's ability to make trade agreements with other nations or control migration could not be accepted and Mrs May "must stick to her righteous cause and deliver what she has said she would".

But, speaking in the Commons, pro-EU MP Anna Soubry said the public were tired of what she said were continual "fudges" on key questions and urged Mrs May to stamp her authority once and for all.

And her colleague Nicky Morgan said Mrs May "would not be thanked for the mess we will end up in" if the government did not prioritise the needs of the economy in a "pragmatic, sensible, flexible" Brexit.

The Democratic Unionist Party, whose support Theresa May needs to have a majority in key Commons votes, said it would not support any deal which did not give the UK full control over its borders.

"We don't give blank cheques to anybody," its Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said after meeting the PM for an hour in Downing Street.

"We want to see a proper Brexit which fulfils the referendum result but we have been very clear that it has to be on the basis of the whole of the UK leaving the EU as one."

He accused Dublin and other European capitals of trying to "bully" the UK and using the issue of the Northern Irish border to "create an outcome which is to their liking", adding "they won't succeed in that".