Theresa May sets up cabinet teams to thrash out rival customs plans

13 May, 2018, 01:43 | Author: Angel Logan
  • European Union logo as a euro sign

Is the Prime Minister about to back down in the crucial cabinet argument over a post-Brexit customs deal?

Theresa May has divided her warring Cabinet ministers into two groups to examine the rival options for Britain's future customs relationship with the EU. The group will include Brexiters Liam Fox and Michael Gove, along with leading remainer David Lidington, the minister for the Cabinet Office.

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.

Downing Street insiders suggested that each group of ministers had been picked for their relevant departmental responsibilities, rather than to give each proposal a "going over" by opponents.

But Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Chancellor Philip Hammond, have not been placed on either "team" to work on the different solutions.

Each working group will be mostly opposed to the option they're considering. The EU has expressed doubts about whether either option would work.

The "Customs Partnership" - the one Boris Johnson called "crazy" because it means the United Kingdom collecting tariffs on behalf of the European Union - will be examined by his Brexiteer allies Liam Fox and Michael Gove, along with David Lidington, a Remainer. If he continues doing it, what he does is make government impossible.

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

But as time ticks by, those decisions that have been kicked down the road are becoming increasingly pressing as European Union negotiators wait for Britain's detailed position not only on customs, but also on the wider trade agreement and governance.

"We are calling on the Government to set out what checks they do intend to carry out on food imports, to allow the food industry and customs authorities time to prepare and to reassure consumers that standards will be upheld".

He also wrote in The Spectator that it is time for the government to end the circular discussions on customs unions.

The further delays on Brexit legislation reinforces the belief that ministers hope to avoid any Commons defeats by putting off any big decisions by MPs until the government has finalised its strategy for exiting the EU.

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