May Is Said to Be Outnumbered in Brexit Cabinet on Customs Plan

Farage in LBC Studio

Farage in LBC Studio

May's decision to leave the EU's customs union, which sets tariffs for goods imported into the bloc, has become one of the main flashpoints in the Brexit debate in Britain, pitting companies and pro-EU campaigners against a vocal group of hardline eurosceptic lawmakers.

"We've been absolutely clear that we're leaving the customs union and won't be joining a customs union", the prime minister's spokesman said ahead of the meeting.

Downing Street has spent the last few days intensely lobbying ministers including David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson on the benefits of the so-called hybrid model, under which the United Kingdom would collect European Union import tariffs on behalf of Brussels.

Ministers met to discuss what the future relationship with the European Union should look like, and specifically two possible customs arrangements - one backed by May and one favored by Brexit supporters.

Mr Rees Mogg also denied reports that Brexiteers had threatened to "collapse" the government if she accepts the customs partnership option.

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MPs in the House of Commons last week heavily criticised the government's suggestion that there is now suitable technology available to eliminate a hard border in Ireland if the United Kingdom leaves the customs union and single market post-Brexit.

In parliament, May said there were a number of ways to solve the customs issue, in what seemed to suggest that her government could be looking beyond the two proposals already made.

May probably has just a week to come up with a new proposal her Cabinet can unite around, according to a senior government official, and her leadership could be in doubt. "The reality is pretty stark - David Davis is clueless". There are fears that any infrastructure introduced at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could destabilize the Peace Process.

"If we are in a customs union of any sort we will have less ability to shape Britain's future than we have today".

"If they don't have confidence in Brexit we don't have confidence in them", an ERG source told The Telegraph.

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"What is important is that it keeps the government's hands open on negotiations with Brussels".

"Quite often on their position on Brexit is that they stake out a fact and say it's not a possibility when all they really mean is that they've decided that they don't want it".

Continuing pressure from within her own party essentially forces the Prime Minister back to her original position, on which she was forced to compromise when the House of Lords voted April 18 to oppose her plan to fully withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Customs Union.

An alternative suggestion was that all companies would have to pay whichever tariff rate (EU or UK) was higher, and then claim a potential refund once goods reached their final destination.

Downing Street would not commit to saying the prime minister was confident she would overturn all of the defeats in the Lords.

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