Appeaser Theresa Struggles to Keep UK Outside EU Customs Union After Promising ‘Alignment’

British Prime Minister Theresa May gives her landmark Brexit speech in Complesso Santa Maria Novella on September 22, 2017 in Florence, Italy.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

The Prime Minister will push back against European Union (EU) demands that Northern Ireland effectively remain inside the Customs Union, despite agreeing in December to keep the region in “regulatory alignment” with the single market.

The bloc will publish its draft Brexit withdrawal agreement on Wednesday and has been accused of cynically weaponising the border issue in an attempt to keep the UK tied to the bloc’s rules and regulations.

Brussels will also demand in the document that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has the power to “interpret and enforce” the divorce agreement against any British objections, as leaks suggested this week.

Theresa May is said to be unhappy with the EU’s interpretation of an agreement struck in December when she promised there would be no hard border in Ireland. It is unclear, however, how else she thought the statement would be perceived.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which Theresa May relies on for votes ion the Commons, have said they will not accept a sea border between Ireland and Britain.

The only other options are border checks in Ireland, which Mrs. May promised not to bring about in December, or keeping the entire UK tied to the bloc’s Customs Union, unable to take back control of trade policy.

“We are fully committed to implementing the December agreement but the EU should be absolutely clear that the prime minister is not going to sign up to anything that threatens the constitutional integrity of the UK or its common market,” a senior government source told The Times.

“Nor are we going to accept the ECJ as the final arbiter of the withdrawal agreement. There are many issues on which we are in agreement with the EU but, when it comes to these matters, you can expect the government’s response to be robust.”

The source added: “This is a draft negotiating position by the EU and not – as some would like you to believe – a final, binding text.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, claimed that the “the issue of the Irish border is being used, politically, to keep the UK in the Customs Union and Single Market” and was being unnecessarily “politicised” by Brussels in an interview with Sky News Wednesday morning.

It was reported on Tuesday night that he had sent Mrs. May a detailed “concept note” setting out how he thought the border could be managed “on the basis of a highly facilitated solution” without it becoming a “hard border”.

He claimed “it is wrong to see the task as maintaining ‘no border’ on the island of Ireland after Brexit” but urged Mrs. May to prevent the border from becoming “significantly harder”.


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