Thursday, May 30

UK-EU custom partnership still on the table despite fierce opposition from Tory Brexiteers



A customs partnership with the European Union is still on the table, the business secretary has said, despite fierce opposition from some Tory Brexiteers.

Thousands of British jobs depend on frictionless trade with Europe, Greg Clark stressed as he continued to push for the controversial arrangement.

He also opened the door to extending a transition period on customs with the EU until a new arrangement was in place.

Outspoken Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed the suggestion of job losses as Project Fear.

Mr Clark was part of the Brexit “war cabinet” which this week failed to reach an agreement on whether to back the customs partnership.

The arrangement would see the UK collect import duties on behalf of the EU for goods arriving via British ports and airports.

Brexiteers claim it would keep the UK too closely tied to Brussels and Mrs May’s war cabinet is thought to have lined up six-five against it, despite the Prime Minister and Mr Clark backing the model.

The Business Secretary denied being close to tears as he spoke at Wednesday’s meeting but admitted I do feel very strongly.

He said Toyota, which employs 3,500 people at plants in North Wales and Derbyshire, was deciding where its next plant should be in Europe.

The nature of the business meant 50 per cent of the parts come from out of the country and the customs partnership model means being able to import them without any checks at the border, without any paperwork.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Clark added: You can compare models but actually you need to have in mind the future jobs but also the very important jobs for people today.

He was backed by former home secretary Amber Rudd, who said Mr Clark was right to argue the case for a Brexit that protects existing jobs and future investment.

Business groups the British Chambers of Commerce and the CBI welcomed Mr Clark’s comments, saying it was important to maintain the status quo on frictionless trade until a new arrangement is in place.

But in a sign of the divisions at the top of Government, a cabinet source said: Greg appears to be re-fighting the referendum, this is Project Fear 3.0.

Instead of listening to vested interests he should pay more attention to the 17.4 million who voted to take back control of our trade policy.

The customs partnership has been roundly rejected, making threats to keep it alive is just desperate.

A Downing Street source dismissed as nonsense suggestions that Mr Clark’s appearance and the support from pro-EU Tories and business organisations had been orchestrated from Number 10.