May agrees Brexit ‘back-stop’ but de­nies climb­down


THERESA May has de­nied “climb­ing down” on Brexit but has agreed to a so-called Ir­ish back-stop plan, which some be­lieve will keep Bri­tain in the Euro­pean cus­toms union beyond the end of the tran­si­tion pe­riod in De­cem­ber 2020.

While the Prime Min­is­ter and her se­nior col­leagues are still con­sid­er­ing a proposed cus­toms part­ner­ship and a stream­lined cus­toms border, a back­stop plan has been en­dorsed should nei­ther of them be taken for­ward by the end of the tran­si­tion pe­riod.

The pro­posal would mean the whole of the UK would be cov­ered by the EU’S com­mon ex­ter­nal tar­iff, re­mov­ing any need for a cus­toms border on the is­land of Ire­land or be­tween it and main­land UK.

Brex­i­teers fear this back-stop plan – agreed this week by Cab­i­net de­spite op­po­si­tion from Boris John­son, the Foreign Sec­re­tary, and Michael Gove, the En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary – amounts to stay­ing in the cus­toms union for longer.

Som­er­set MP Ja­cob Rees-mogg said: “We have gone from a clear end-point to an ex­ten­sion to a proposed fur­ther ex­ten­sion with no end-point.

“The hori­zon seems to be un­reach­able. The bot­tom of the rain­bow seems to be unattain­able. Peo­ple voted to leave; they did not vote for a per­pet­ual pur­ga­tory.”

But Damian Green, the for­mer Cab­i­net Of­fice Min­is­ter, who was Mrs May’s ef­fec­tive deputy until his res­ig­na­tion last year, said he was ready to ac­cept a “small de­lay” to Brexit to en­sure that cus­toms ar­range­ments worked ef­fec­tively.

In a tweet, the Kent MP said: “Surely the point about a new cus­toms ar­range­ment is that it needs to work smoothly from day one or we will have chaos on the roads, es­pe­cially in Kent. If that means a small de­lay, so be it.”

No 10 sources in­sisted the proposed back-stop plan, which will be pre­sented to the EU27 at next month’s Euro­pean Coun­cil, would not be tan­ta­mount to Bri­tain stay­ing in the cus­toms union longer,. They claimed that, in such cir­cum­stances, the UK would still be able to sign and implement trade deals. More­over, any such mea­sure would only last for a mat­ter of months.

Ar­riv­ing at the EU Western Balkans sum­mit in the Bul­gar­ian cap­i­tal Sofia, the PM, asked about the back-stop plan, said: “No, we are not [climb­ing down]. The United King­dom will be leav­ing the cus­toms union; we are leav­ing the Euro­pean Union.”

„ Theresa May said yes­ter­day the UK will leave the cus­toms union.

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