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Brexit war cabinet mired in trenches over customs plan

03 May 2018, 02:11 | Marta Robbins

GETTYInternational Trade Secretary Liam Fox has Britain could end up back in the EU indefinitely

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox

The U.K. prime minister has "a week" to strike a compromise among her top team over Britain's future customs relationship with Europe, or face a choice between staying in the customs union after Brexit or leaving the European Union without a deal, both of which will end her career, senior officials in Brussels and London said.

One alternative, known as the customs partnership, has already been rejected by Leavers including David Davis and Liam Fox, who claim it would leave the United Kingdom too closely tied to the European Union after Brexit.

Before May met her so-called Brexit war cabinet, a group of lawmakers criticised her proposal for a customs partnership, saying the arrangement that would see Britain essentially act as the EU's tariff collector was unworkable.

Senior politicians have handed Mrs May a so-called "ultimatum" demanding she abandons the idea of the United Kingdom entering a "customs partnership" ahead of a meeting of her Brexit war cabinet.

In Dublin, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said there was a risk that Britain and the European Union would fail to reach a withdrawal deal by an October deadline unless "real and meaningful" progress was made by a summit in June of the bloc's leaders.

The complicating factor is that the United Kingdom wants to strike its own post-Brexit trade deals with other countries rather than have to stick with deals struck for the EU customs union.

Brexiteers want May to agree to a streamlined customs arrangement in which new technology and "trusted trader" schemes minimise the need for checks on goods at the border between the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Israeli soldiers shoot dead Palestinian on Gaza border
He also called for launching an worldwide investigation "into crimes of the Israeli occupation against peaceful protesters". At least 46 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured by Israeli gunfire since the rallies began on March 30.

The prime minister's spokesman said her views were "evolving" after 60 MPs signed a letter condemning proposals for a customs partnership as "Brexit in name only".

It is possible another option could emerge combining elements of the first two.

Although the European Commission has said it wants a solution for the Irish border by its upcoming summit in June, there is no requirement on Mrs May to come to a final decision at Wednesday's meeting of the Brexit strategy and negotiations sub-committee.

But that scheme is being strongly opposed by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

"I wish to put it on record that I could not in good conscience vote for an agreement that would keep us in the (or "a") customs union or partnership as set out in the NCP proposal". "The PM reiterated that staying in the customs union when you're outside the EU means that you have less control than now over our trade policy".

He denied he was "making threats" but the Conservatives have only a slim majority in the House of Commons and May could not survive a rebellion by ERG MPs. "As the prime minister said, there are a number of ways to proceed". "Again, my concern is that the NCP, in forcing the United Kingdom into regulatory alignment with the EU, would leave us in essentially the customs union, which, as I have said, is unacceptable".



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