Theresa May told ministers to get 'hands on' over customs dispute

13 May, 2018, 01:41 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • European Union logo as a euro sign

Announcing the Commons schedule for the next fortnight, Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the house, gave no timings for the return of the European Union withdrawal bill from the Lords, or any news on three other key Brexit-connected bills.

One will consider the Brexiteers' favoured "maximum facilitation" - or "max fac" - solution, based on the use of technology to minimise the need for customs checks once the United Kingdom is outside the EU.

Ministers failed to reach a decision at a crunch meeting last week. Under this proposal, Britain would collect tariffs on goods entering the country on the EU's behalf. Under this proposal, traders on an approved list or "trusted traders" would be able to cross borders freely with the aid of automated technology.

One cabinet minister told the Guardian: "The prime minister wants to find a way through this that keeps the party together".

The second team is comprised of Brexit Secretary David Davis, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Business Secretary Greg Clarke.

"But to get its way with Brussels, and to convince Parliament that there is an alternative to a customs union, the Government needs to get on with it, choose "max fac" - and start making the case".

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Labour is in favour of setting up a new customs union with the EU after Brexit, something it says is backed by the trade unions and industry body the CBI.

"This is being worked on as a priority", May's spokesman said.

It also found that even in a "best-case scenario", in which the Government agreed tariff-free, frictionless trade imports on food and drink, global rules would oblige the United Kingdom to conduct more customs and borders checks.

This idea appears to be gathering support amid the impasse at the top level of Government, with both a former minister and ex-aide to Environment Secretary Michael Gove also backing the plan. It's unclear whether they will survive a final vote in the House of Commons, which has the power to override the unelected Lords.

"Parliament is finally taking control of Brexit and is seeing off a minority of ideologically driven hard Brexiteers", Conservative lawmaker Anna Soubry said this week on Twitter. This means it would have to change its position and accept the continued free movement of people.

"All of that could be at risk if we quit the EU customs union and the single market and are lumbered with new customs barriers, charges and unnecessary red tape".

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