- Downing Street rules out continued membership of an form of the customs union after Brexit.
- The statement comes after senior cabinet members clashed over the issue.
- May’s Cabinet are set for crunch talks on Brexit this week.
- A senior government source says the prime minister wants to “put this to rest”.
LONDON – Theresa May has ‘categorically’ ruled out staying in any form of customs union after Brexit, in an attempt to shut down a growing Cabinet split over Britain’s exit from the EU.
The prime minister has previously remained open minded about maintaining some form of customs union with the EU. However, a senior government source said on Sunday evening: “To put this to rest, we are categorically leaving the customs union. It is not our policy to stay in the customs union. It is not our policy to stay in a customs union.”
The statement followed a day in which senior Cabinet figures had publicly clashed over the issue. On Sunday morning the Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the BBC that the prime minister had an “open mind” about the issue. However, this was later dismissed by the Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, who told Sky News that: “I don’t think we’ll be in any form of customs union, at least as conceived in international trade practice.”
The row comes ahead of a crunch meeting of Theresa May’s Brexit ‘war cabinet’ which is due to discuss the issue of Britain’s future relationship with the EU.
Friends of the foreign secretary Boris Johnson had briefed at the weekend that he was be prepared to help overthrow Theresa May if she insisted on keeping Britain in some form of customs union, saying “cavalry is coming” on the issue.
The Cabinet is split over those who want certainty for business that trade will continue to be able to flow freely with the EU and those who want Britain to be able to rapidly sign free trade deals with the rest of the EU.
Membership of a Customs Union would limit Britain’s ability to sign new deals. However leaked government analysis last week indicated that leaving the single market and customs union would damage Britain’s economy in excess of any economic benefit from a free trade deal with other parts of the world.
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