Theresa May promises Brexit white paper to break customs deadlock

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Theresa May will set out her government’s plans for post-Brexit arrangements on financial services, trade and customs checks ahead of a crucial EU summit in June, UK officials have revealed.

The publication will seek to break the deadlock in Brexit talks, particularly in the area of customs, ahead of the summit in Brussels where negotiators must make progress in order to keep the exit process on track.

During briefings for Conservative MPs in Downing Street, the Prime Minister was reportedly challenged by Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg over her unwillingness to impose some border infrastructure in Northern Ireland. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool

During briefings for Conservative MPs in Downing Street, the Prime Minister was reportedly challenged by Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg over her unwillingness to impose some border infrastructure in Northern Ireland. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool

It came as another meeting of Mrs May’s Brexit “war cabinet” ended without agreement on how customs checks could be implemented without creating a “hard border” in Ireland.

During briefings for Conservative MPs in Downing Street, the Prime Minister was reportedly challenged by Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg over her unwillingness to impose some border infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

Mr Rees-Mogg is reported to have told the Prime Minister that even if Brexit leads to a vote on Irish unification, “I have no doubt we would win, as the UK did in Scotland”.

According to sources quotes in the Times, Mrs May replied: “That’s not a risk I’m prepared to take. We cannot be confident on the politics of that situation, on how it plays out.” Downing Street did not dispute the report yesterday.

The EU is putting pressure on Britain to present its preferred option at the upcoming meeting of the European Council in June.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is reported to have said it was not worth fighting about UK options for a “customs partnership” or “maximum facilitation” at the border, as neither of them is “realistic”.

Tuesday’s 90-minute meeting of the Cabinet’s Brexit negotiations sub-committee heard presentations from Brexit Secretary David Davis and Cabinet Office minister David Lidington on the work completed so far by two ministerial working groups set up by Mrs May last week to look for improvements to the two schemes.

The meeting, attended by 11 ministers including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, was not asked to make a choice between the models. No date has been announced for a further meeting.

Meanwhile, Labour will try to force the government to detail its Brexit customs plans. Jeremy Corbyn’s party has tabled a Commons motion for debate today which would require the release to MPs of all Brexit sub-committee papers, including economic analysis.