May ‘will not trap UK in EU or­bit over deal’

Grow­ing Cab­i­net ten­sion on ‘back­stop’

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - ARJ SINGH WEST­MIN­STER COR­RE­SPON­DENT Email: arj.singh@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @sing­harj

POL­I­TICS: Theresa May said she would never agree a Brexit deal which “traps” Bri­tain in a cus­toms union with the EU but re­fused to bow to pres­sure to harden her stance by com­mit­ting to a time-limit on the so-called Ir­ish “back­stop” plan.

The pledge came amid spec­u­la­tion over pos­si­ble Min­is­te­rial res­ig­na­tions.

THERESA MAY yes­ter­day in­sisted she would never agree a Brexit deal which “traps” Bri­tain in a cus­toms union with the EU but re­fused to bow to grow­ing pres­sure to harden her ne­go­ti­at­ing stance by com­mit­ting to a time­limit on the so-called Ir­ish “back­stop” plan.

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

Brex­i­teers and the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party which props up her mi­nor­ity Gov­ern­ment have made clear their ve­he­ment op­po­si­tion to sug­ges­tions that Mrs May could com­mit to a back­stop with no end date, con­cerned it would leave the UK in a de facto cus­toms union in­def­i­nitely.

It is un­der­stood that a num­ber of Min­is­ters voiced con­cern at a meet­ing with the PM in Down­ing Street on Thurs­day that such a plan could in­def­i­nitely pre­vent the UK from seek­ing trade deals else­where in the world, touted as a ma­jor Brexit prize.

Brexit Sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab broke cover to in­sist the back­stop must be “time lim­ited” and could not leave the UK in “in­def­i­nite limbo”.

He said: “It would have to be fi­nite, it would have to be short and it would have to be, I think, time­lim­ited in or­der for it to be sup­ported here.

“What we can­not do is see the UK locked in via the back­door to a cus­toms union ar­range­ment which would leave us in an in­def­i­nite limbo. That would not be leav­ing the EU.”

But the EU is mount­ing re­sis­tance to any spe­cific time limit be­ing in­cluded in the Brexit deal.

Mrs May’s in­ner Cab­i­net meet­ing on Thurs­day fo­cused on plans for a “tem­po­rary cus­toms ar­range­ment” to en­sure that the bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic re­mains open in the case that no broader EU/UK trade agree­ment has been fi­nalised.

The cur­rent pro­pos­als state that the Gov­ern­ment “ex­pects” this ar­range­ment to re­main in place no later than the end of De­cem­ber 2021 but does not specif­i­cally com­mit to a time limit.

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

But Brexit-back­ing for­mer For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son said a back­stop with­out a spe­cific time limit risks mak­ing the UK a “per­ma­nent EU colony”, as Brus­sels could sim­ply refuse to undo the deal in the fu­ture.

Mean­while, Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond be­came the first se­nior Gov­ern­ment fig­ure to sug­gest that 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 DUP, which has threat­ened to vote down the Bud­get, urged Mrs May to re­sist Brus­sels pres­sure.

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wil­son said there would be “con­se­quences” for Mrs May if she walked away from her prom­ise to pro­tect the Union.

“We are sim­ply re­mind­ing her, you are be­ing torn at the mo­ment be­tween what we be­lieve are your gut in­stincts and your sound prin­ci­ples on the Union and at the same time the bul­ly­ing, threat­en­ing be­hav­iour of the EU,” said Mr Wil­son at a meet­ing of DUP MPs and As­sem­bly mem­bers in Por­ta­d­own.

“Go with your prin­ci­ples, go with your in­stinct, go with your re­spon­si­bil­ity to the peo­ple of the UK and show the EU ne­go­tia­tors the door.”

Tory Brex­i­teer Steve Baker said any back­stop which went beyond a sim­ple trade deal amounted to sin­gle mar­ket mem­ber­ship, which “won’t wash” with vot­ers.

PIC­TURE: PA WIRE

CON­CERNS: Theresa May’s pledge came amid spec­u­la­tion that over pos­si­ble Min­is­te­rial res­ig­na­tions if she gives too much ground ahead of a Brus­sels sum­mit next month.

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