Work on customs plans as a priority, May tells officials

GETTYBrexit news Theresa May faces a tough decision on the customs union

Britain's future customs arrangements after it leaves the bloc in March next year is fast becoming the main flashpoint in the Brexit debate, important because some fear it could usher in a return to a hard border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, possibly reigniting sectarian violence.

Mrs May's spokesman said: "There are two customs models that were put forward by the Government last August and most recently outlined in the Prime Minister's Mansion House speech which the entire Cabinet was signed up to".

Leading backbench Leaver Bernard Jenkin also heaped pressure on the prime minister predicting May would be forced to drop the plan.

Immediately Enterprise Secretary Greg Clark mentioned {that a} deal to interchange the customs relationship could be of "large significance", and warned that 1000's of jobs might be misplaced if we did not accomplish that.

What is May's customs partnership plan?

One option floated is for a customs partnership, under which the United Kingdom would collect tariffs on behalf of the European Union and then refund any companies whose goods aren't destined for use in one of the 27 member-states.

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The customs partnership was May's big idea to avoid checks at the border after Brexit.

Nevertheless, according to Politico's Jack Blanchard, "allies insist May will press ahead in making the case for her option", arguing that the customs partnership is a smart compromise.

Both Mr Gove and Mr Clark were part of the Brexit Cabinet committee which discussed the customs options.

This would be a good thing, he said, for companies such as Toyota, who employ 3,500 people, who are making decisions about future production at the moment.

"That's not taking back control of your trade policy, it's not taking back control of your laws, it's not taking back control of your borders and it's actually not taking back control of your money either, because tariffs would get paid centrally back to Brussels".

He went on to say: "Of course business wants certainty".

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The swift show of support for Mr Clark led to speculation the move had been orchestrated by Number 10, a claim dismissed as "nonsense" by a Downing Street insider.

Jacob Rees Mogg, the influential leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group said his colleague was engaging in "Project Fear".

The addition of Sajid Javid, the new Home Secretary who replaced Amber Rudd last week, to the cabinet subcommittee on Brexit upset the balance in the key group of ministers and gave eurosceptics the advantage.

But pro-EU former business minister Anna Soubry urged Mrs May to "see off these ideologues who are blighting our party and blighting the Brexit process".

Eurosceptics have urged Mrs May to drop the proposal for a "customs partnership" which they fear would tie the United Kingdom too closely to Brussels.

The UK Government is also envisaging a second, "maximum facilitation" option that would involve not only technological support, but also infrastructure, whereas London has committed itself to not creating any infrastructure at the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, which is an European Union member.

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