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Upping pressure on PM, Labour Party to call for Brexit customs papers

17 May 2018

Ministers are still arguing over what the country will look like after Brexit, with Theresa May's Brexit "war cabinet" again failing to reach an agreement on customs in a meeting yesterday.

"The government's Brexit strategy is in complete and utter deadlock", said Labour's Brexit policy chief Keir Starmer in a statement.

They are "maximum facilitation" - which is based on using technology to minimise the need for customs checks after Brexit - and "customs partnership" which would involve the United Kingdom collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU.

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European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier is reported to have said it was not worth fighting about United Kingdom options for a "customs partnership" or "maximum facilitation" at the border, as neither of them is "realistic".

The customs partnership scheme, believed to be favoured by the prime minister, would see the United Kingdom collect European Union tariffs for goods coming into Britain on behalf of Brussels.

Britain's business minister said the government understands the importance of avoiding friction in the automotive supply chain after Brexit, as ministers try to overcome differences as to what customs relationships Britain should have with the EU. Under a second idea, for a streamlined customs arrangement, traders on an approved list would be able to cross borders freely with the aid of automated technology.

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Prime Minister Theresa May trailed the customs partnership option in her Mansion House speech and it is believe to be her preferred option, while leading Brexiteers have thrown their weight behind the "max fac" model.

"I thought the prime minister's piece in the Sunday Times really set it out very clearly", he said after talks with his French counterpart in London. "In that scenario you'd end up staying in the customs union because you'd have no other choice", a senior source said.The attorney-general's office has been asked to provide an urgent legal opinion before the cabinet makes its final decision. Jeremy Corbyn's party has tabled a Commons motion for debate today which would require the release to MPs of all Brexit sub-committee papers, including economic analysis.

The main opposition Labour Party said Tuesday it will use a rarely deployed parliamentary device to force the government to reveal the details of the two customs options, which could reveal key intelligence on what May's government has in mind to pitch to Brussels.

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He added: 'Ministers have finally agreed to publish a white paper on the Government's negotiating position, but they still don't know what it will say.

Upping pressure on PM, Labour Party to call for Brexit customs papers