Theresa May ready to cave in to hardline Brexiters’ demands


Theresa May is preparing to cave in to hardline Brexiters over amendments to the customs bill, rather than allow Jacob Rees-Mogg and colleagues to stage a show of parliamentary strength. As the prime minister tried to sell her Chequers deal on Brexit to the public and her own backbenchers, the European Research Group (ERG) of pro-Brexit MPs tabled four amendments to the legislation last week.

The ERG believes May’s “facilitated customs arrangement”, which would see the UK collect EU tariffs on some imports, and plans for a “common rulebook” for goods and agriculture, would allow for too close a future relationship with the EU27.

Rees-Mogg held talks with the chief whip, Julian Smith, on Monday, and Downing Street suggested it had not ruled out accepting amendments that did not contradict government policy. However, a source suggested there were still concerns about one of the four, which would prohibit HMRC from “collection of certain taxes or duties on behalf of territory without reciprocity” – a move aimed at blocking the facilitated customs arrangement.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “There are a number of amendments on both pieces of legislation and, as we did with the withdrawal bill, we will consider the amendments and set out our position in due course.” Downing Street said it was “very clear that the proposal we put forward at Chequers delivers on the will of the people in the referendum”. “Cabinet is behind it, businesses have come out to support it and now we need to get on with negotiating with the EU,” the spokesman said.(theguardian)…[+]