January 20, 2019

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

14 May 2018, 03:16 | Pamela Mathis

Image Boris Johnson deepened Tory divisions

Boris Johnson arrives in Downing Street

Looking at the customs partnership proposal will be two Brexiteers - International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Environment Secretary Michael Gove - and Remainer Cabinet Office minister David Lidington.

The former prime minister said there was "no sensible alternative" to the customs union which Mrs May has said the United Kingdom will leave as part of its withdrawal from the European Union.

A second plan, known as "maximum facilitation" or Max Fac, would set up a looser relationship between the two trading partners and use technology to minimise disruption and border checks.

"They do literally plunge a knife into the heart of government and particularly to the Prime Minister - because it is very much her fixed view, and that is what we stood on at the last election".

Environment Minister Michael Gove, a prominent "Leave" supporter in the 2016 referendum campaign, said neither proposal was absolutely ideal. "With NCP [new customs partnership], as Boris pointed out, because it's novel, because no model like this exists there have to be significant questions about the deliverability of it on time", he said.

Speaking on the same programme, Ireland's tánaiste and foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said there had been a clear commitment from May that there would be no border infrastructure.

He insisted the Government needed to "crack on" with finding a solution as "in delay there lies no plenty, as Shakespeare once said".

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On Sunday, May attempted to calm tensions with a Facebook article setting out three tests that a new customs arrangement would need to meet.

She said: 'If we stick to the task we will seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a stronger, fairer Britain that is respected around the world and confident and united at home. It would also allow the government to cut tariffs on goods from other countries destined for domestic consumption.

Johnson and David Davis, the Brexit secretary, favour...

This week has seen cabinet ministers take different positions on Brexit.

May's Conservative administration is divided on what sort of customs agreement Britain should have with the European Union after it leaves the bloc.

Labour's Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said neither of the options would work and claimed it was "farcical" that the cabinet was fighting over them. "Nobody credible suggests you can achieve no hard border without it", he told Marr.

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