May Refuses to ‘Guarantee’ Brexit Customs Union Time Limit

French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel share a joke as they arrive for the start of an EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia on May 17, 2018. - European Union leaders will meet their Balkan counterparts to hold out the promise of closer …
LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty

The Prime Minister has said she cannot “guarantee” there will be a firm limit to the UK staying tied to the EU’s customs rules, the day after reassuring Brexiteers on the topic to avert a cabinet rebellion.

On Thursday, Theresa May was forced to say she “expects” there to be a cut-off date after Brexit Secretary David Davis allegedly threatened to resign.

Leading Brexit-supporting MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has said a potentially unlimited period of the UK “mirroring” Customs Union rules would be a betrayal of the referendum and be a form of “Brexit purgatory”.

Now, speaking to reporters on her flight to the G7 summit in Canada this Thursday, Mrs. May twice refused to give a “cast-iron guarantee” that the end date would not be extended. According to The Guardian, she argued:

“The point about the backstop is that it may never be used. It only comes in if the agreed end-state customs arrangement has not been brought into place by January 2021.

“I’ve always been clear that this was time-limited and as we’ve said today [Thursday] the end state at the latest will be in by the end of 2021 and we will be working to ensure that it is in earlier than that.”

Mr. Davis and other Brexiteers signed up last month to the “backstop” idea of keeping the entire UK tied to the bloc’s Customs Union rules, if an Irish border solution is not found in time, so long as it was time-limited.

The EU has rejected all Customs Union and Irish border solutions put forward by the UK so far, including the “Max Fac” option allowing the UK to break free of EU rules and keep the Irish border open.

The DUP, meanwhile, will not accept the EU’s preferred option of creating a customs border in the Irish Sea, as it threatens the “constitutional integrity” of the union.

Thursday night, in leaked comments, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called for the UK to take a harder line against Brussels, and emulate U.S. President Donald J. Trump in his dealing with the bloc.

.