May ‘will not back’ per­ma­nent union plan

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - NEWS POLITICS -

Theresa May would never agree a Brexit deal with the EU which “traps” the UK per­ma­nently in a cus­toms union, Down­ing Street has said.

The pledge came amid spec­u­la­tion over pos­si­ble min­is­te­rial res­ig­na­tions if the Prime Min­is­ter gives too much ground ahead of a crunch Brus­sels sum­mit next week.

Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner Guen­ther Oet­tinger said yes­ter­day “it does ap­pear pos­si­ble there will be a break­through” at the Oc­to­ber 17-18 sum­mit, fu­elling spec­u­la­tion that a deal is near on a so-called “back­stop” for the Ir­ish bor­der.

It is un­der­stood that a num­ber of min­is­ters voiced con­cern at a meet­ing with the PM in Down­ing Street on Thurs­day that any such back­stop could leave the UK in an open-ended cus­toms union, pre­vent­ing it from seek­ing trade deals else­where in the world.

For­mer for­eign sec­re­tary Boris John­son has said it risks mak­ing the UK a “per­ma­nent EU colony”.

Mean­while, Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond be­came the first se­nior Govern­ment fig­ure to sug­gest the back­stop – de­signed to keep the bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic open in the case that no broader EU/UK trade deal is fi­nalised – will “prob­a­bly” have to come into ef­fect for a pe­riod.

But the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party, which props up Mrs May’s mi­nor­ity Con­ser­va­tive ad­min­is­tra­tion, urged her to re­sist any ini­tia­tives from Brus­sels which might threaten the union.

As of­fi­cials con­tin­ued to wran­gle over the pre­cise word­ing of the agree­ment in Brus­sels, a Down­ing Street spokes­woman told a West­min­ster me­dia brief­ing: “The Prime Min­is­ter would never agree to a deal which would trap the UK in a back­stop per­ma­nently.”

Pic­ture: PA.

Theresa May.

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