Economy

UK MPs up pressure over post-Brexit customs plans

UK MPs up pressure over post-Brexit customs plans

Theresa May has insisted that the United Kingdom will be leaving the customs union when it quits the EU, leaving it free to strike trade deals with other countries.

She is facing a Cabinet split over the issue, with senior Eurosceptics including David Davis, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and Michael Gove expected to urge her to abandon plans for a customs partnership amid concerns it could lead to a Brexit climbdown.

The defeat is the latest in the House of Lords for May and her Conservative government as parliament debates the European Union withdrawal bill which will sever ties with the European Union and pave the way for Britain to leave in March next year.

The motion being debated on Thursday calls on the Government to include as an objective in negotiations with the EU "the establishment of an effective customs union between the two territories".

The PM and her Cabinet have over and over guaranteed that Britain will leave the EU Customs Union and not join any comparable game plan after Brexit.

After Downing Street insisted that the government's position had not changed, Ms Rudd tweeted her own clarification: "Of course when we leave the EU we will be leaving the customs union".

Her comments came ahead of a Cabinet meeting next week at which ministers will hammer out proposals for Britain's future customs and trading relationship with Brussels.

According to the bloc, the only possible framework for future cooperation between Britain and the European Union is a trade deal.

He added: "I believe the home secretary has been clear that we are leaving the customs union".

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MPs will hold a binding vote next month on an amendment tabled by the unelected upper House of Lords to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which sets the legal framework for Brexit, although ministers have played down its significance.

The customs union is poison to the hard-Brexit wing of the Conservative party, who regard it as a betrayal of the 2016 EU referendum result, because it would leave Britain's economy tethered to the European free-trade zone.

Above all, it shows we have a Prime Minister governing for narrow party interest, not the national interest.

Challenged over how she would vote on the issue if she was a backbencher, she replied: "I'm committed to the Government's position, which to some extent we are still working on".

Minister David Davis has told a parliamentary committee that an agreement on a future free trade deal with the European Union after Brexit is "overwhelmingly probable".

They could rationalize a vote against May as acting in the best interests of the UK.

Media captionWhat is the EU customs union?

She said Labour was "more interested in frustrating the process and playing politics than they are in delivering a successful Brexit".