21:52 GMT +314 December 2018
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    Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May

    Brexit: May Will Never Concede to Indefinite Customs Union - PM's Spokeswoman

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    Ahead of an upcoming European summit next week, the UK Prime Minister held a meeting with members of the Brexit “war cabinet” on Thursday to seek support for the newly proposed terms of the withdrawal agreement and prevent any potential resignations over her backstop plan.

    Theresa May's spokewoman said that the UK Prime Minister would never agree to a Brexit backstop plan that would "trap" Britain in a customs union with Brussels permanently, adding that the arrangements must be temporary.

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    Earlier in the day, media reports suggested that May was challenged by a number of her cabinet ministers, including Liam Fox, the international trade secretary and Michael Gove, the environment secretary, on Thursday who voiced concerns over her new backstop plan, fearing it would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU for an open-ended period of time.

    According to the BBC, Brexiteers were particularly concerned over the fact that Britain could be tied to the bloc’s mechanisms indefinitely, which would become an obstacle to the country’s independent trade deals elsewhere once it leaves the EU.

    They are insisting any arrangement that would see the UK remain part of the customs union after the Brexit transition period ends in December 2020 until a permanent trade deal can be thrashed out must be strictly time-limited – something the EU has been resisting.

    Other cabinet members, who appeared to not have been invited to the meeting, including Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, and Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, were said to be frustrated with the lack of a time limit, and, according to The Times, citing an unnamed source, were considering their positions.

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    Before the meeting some cabinet members had reportedly told Brexiteers in the European Research Group that they would demand a clear time limit, to which the EU is unlikely to concede.

    Other Brexit campaigners, however, are said to agree that a firm time limit risks derailing talks with the EU and fear the so-called no-deal Brexit would be the worst outcome.

    Meanwhile, shortly after the meeting began, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader, Arlene Foster, said that Theresa May and her cabinet “have assured me of their unionism.”

    "Therefore, they could not in good conscience recommend a deal which places a trade barrier on United Kingdom businesses moving goods from one part of the kingdom to another."

    Foster also dismissed the EU’s description of the backstop plan as “the best of both worlds,” branding it instead “the worst of one world.”

    “Brussels wants Northern Ireland to have access to the EU single market and trade within the rules set by the EU under the European Courts of Justice. However, Brussels also wants to place an effective one-way turnstile from Northern Ireland into the rest of the United Kingdom. Trade from Great Britain into Northern Ireland would be in danger of restriction. Indeed, Northern Ireland’s access to any new United Kingdom trade deals would also be regulated by Brussels. That is not the best of both worlds. That is the worst of one world.”

    Last Saturday, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said that the chances for a no-deal scenario had risen in the last few days, while emphasizing that the matter could be finished within next month. Theresa May and the EU leaders are expected to reach a final agreement after negotiations in Brussels on October 16.

    Tags:
    backstop solution, EU Customs Union, customs union, backlash, Brexit, pressure, trade, Theresa May, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom
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