Published: Mon, October 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Theresa May puts the brakes on customs union deal with Brussels

Theresa May puts the brakes on customs union deal with Brussels

Mr Wilson also took aim at Irish premier Leo Varadkar and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, who he said had "encouraged" the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier to "take a hard line". For his part, the Brexit secretary left Brussels and traveled back to London without making any comment.

Starmer brokered a complex "composite motion" at the party's conference last month that said all options were on the table if May's deal is rejected by parliament.

It follows comments from Davis in The Sunday Times in which he warned that failure to agree on a final trade deal could leave Britain paying £39 billion to Brussels.

One of the issues that has been hampering progression of a deal has been that of the Irish border and a potential backstop - a mechanism to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland.

The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party objects to the current solution for the Irish border as it will erect some barriers between the province and the rest of the U.K. Hardline Brexiteers object to it because it risks keeping the U.K. tied to European Union rules indefinitely.

Health minister Matt Hancock suggested the backstop could be temporary without such the date, an argument that may fall flat for some Eurosceptic lawmakers who are calling for May to "chuck Chequers", her Brexit plan named after her country residence.

Despite the pessimism, some observers believe a showdown moment may simply be a necessary piece of theatrics that will act as a precursor to a deal.

But the claims have angered Johnson's supporters, with one telling the Mail Davis was "painfully out of his depth" and insisted that he would be a "disaster" as prime minister. A breakdown in relations in October could potentially help the premier at home by showing she had stood her ground.

"But, if the European Union doesn't match the ambition and pragmatism we've shown, we have the plans in place to avoid, mitigate or manage the risk of no deal and make a success of Brexit". May is probably going to have to count on opposition votes, and will need to present it as the only viable alternative to chaos.

Rabb's surprise trip to Brussels spurred speculation of a breakthrough in the negotiations, a possibility reinforced by the call for the ambassadors from the bloc's 27 nations to meet at European Union headquarters, starting at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Ireland's ambassador to the UK, Adrian O'Neill, said Sunday's events in Brussels were a "setback" and could increase the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

He then went on to say: "However there remain a number of unresolved issues relating to the backstop".

An EU official said no further negotiations were planned before the leaders of EU countries convene in Brussels. That's reduced her room for maneuver.

Former Cabinet colleague David Davis openly threatened Mrs May with a leadership election unless she changes her stance on Brexit, while up to nine Cabinet ministers are considering resigning over the issue.

May also faces obstacles from the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, which has played a crucial role in propping up her minority government in Parliament.

A Cabinet meeting on Tuesday is shaping up to be a showdown between May and those ministers most in favor of a clean break with the EU.

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