Theresa May signals Brexit retreat on the customs union

Jack Taylor / GettyTheresa May
  • A spokesman for Theresa May says her position on the customs union is “evolving”.
  • The comments come ahead of a Cabinet showdown over her plans for a “customs partnership” with the European Union.
  • Senior figures in the government are reportedly prepared to resign over her plans.
  • Downing Street now insists it is considering “a number of options” for Britain’s future customs arrangements.

LONDON – Theresa May’s plans to leave the European Union’s customs union are “evolving” with the government now looking at a “number of options” for future customs arrangements after Brexit, a spokesman for the prime minister said today.

May has previously insisted that just two proposals for Britain’s future customs relations with Europe are under consideration by the government.

However, both options have been rejected by the EU, with senior figures in May’s government expected to call on her today to abandon her preferred plan for a “customs partnership” with the EU.

Speaking ahead of the crunch meeting of her ‘Brexit war cabinet’ this afternoon, May’s spokesman signalled that there were now “a number of options” for replacing the customs union.

“There are a number of options [on the customs union] and we are working on taking those forward,” May’s spokesman said, adding that “ideas are obviously evolving as we go along.”

Downing Street’s statement follows a threat from 60 Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs to bring down the government if she sticks to her plans for a customs partnership.

Jacob Rees-Mogg who leads the European Research Group of pro-Brexit MPs, told the Today Programme that May’s policy “would not work [and] would not effectively take us out of the European Union. It would leave us de facto in both the customs union and the single market.”

Another leading figure in the group told Business Insider last week that May could be ousted by Tory MPs if she sticks to her plan.

“We’re heading for a vote of no confidence in the prime minister and a general election. I would support that vote of no confidence,” the MP told BI.

Friends of both the Brexit Secretary David Davis and the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have reportedly said in recent days that they would be willing to resign if May retreats on her plans to cut customs ties with the EU.

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