Theresa May postpones customs decision after ministers disagree

David Davis and the European Union Chief Negotiator in charge of Brexit negotiations with Britain Michel Barnier

Theresa May's inner Brexit Cabinet broke up without agreement on the kind of customs arrangement it wants with the European Union after the split, with ministers telling officials to go and do more work on both the options under consideration. The EU also says the United Kingdom has yet to propose a workable alternative. Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg denied he was prepared to bring the government down, but said a customs partnership would betray the Conservatives' election promises.

It was known that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis, Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Environment Secretary Michael Gove were on the other side of the argument.

But Downing Street denied this, saying the meeting acknowledged there were "challenges" to the existing proposals but that both the options put forward so far by the United Kingdom are still on the table. Mrs.

Further meetings of the Cabinet's Brexit strategy and negotiations sub-committee are expected to be held next week to try to resolve the impasse.

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, one of those attending the meeting, indicated a final decision may not be reached for "a few weeks".

Those ministers seeking a closer relationship with the European Union favor a so-called hybrid customs partnership, in which the United Kingdom would continue to manage tariffs on imports destined for the Continent, while Brexiteers back the "max fac" customs plan, where there would be a border but it would be made as smooth as possible with the help of technology and simplified requirements for goods entering Britain from the EU.

If the United Kingdom made a decision to set different tariffs from its European neighbours, traders would claim refunds from HM Revenue and Customs for goods which stay in Britain.

In response, May repeated that Britain wanted to develop its own independent trade policy, avoid a "hard border" between British Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland, and ensure as frictionless trade as possible with the rest of the bloc. And if Britain leaves European customs arrangements, Northern Ireland must either join the United Kingdom on the outside or break from the rest of the country.

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After losing her party's majority at an ill-judged election a year ago, May has put off committing to a single plan, offering Brussels two options - the customs partnership or a technology-based streamlined customs arrangement, both of which European Union negotiators have dismissed.

Answering the question of the Committee of the house of lords EU Affairs, Davis said that it all depends on the details, but "if considered as a concept, I have no significant objections to it".

Tory Brexiteers fear the scheme could indefinitely trap the United Kingdom within the EU's customs arrangements, as well as being expensive and complicated to operate. If they don't have confidence in Brexit we don't have confidence in them.

A customs partnership: This would remove the need for new customs checks at the border.

"The Prime Minister's calculations have got to include exactly what reaction there would be from the parliamentary party and the wider Conservative Party if we were to enter into that sort of relationship".

"What we are not going to do is make trade harder for the many businesses in this country, nor make peace in Northern Ireland something that we put at risk", Ms Morgan said.

May has insisted that no British prime minister could accept such a scenario.

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