Theresa May is to bow to more European Union (EU) demands and could accept customs checks in the Irish Sea, just weeks after insisting a British Prime Minister would “never” consider dividing the nation.
Downing Street is planning to keep the UK tied to all of the bloc’s rules on goods, as set out in the Chequers plan, but also accept the potential for checks in the Irish Sea to meet EU demands that goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain must meet all the bloc’s standards, The Times reports.
The extra concessions, part of a so-called “grand bargain”, could be seen as violating another one of Mrs May’s “red lines” on Brexit and appear to contradict her statements on the 21st of last month, in an angry rebuke to the bloc as talks reached an “impasse”.
She said a basic trade deal with the EU would leave Northern Ireland “permanently separated economically from the rest of the UK by a border down the Irish Sea” and warned:
“It is something I will never agree to – indeed, in my judgement it is something no British prime minister would ever agree to. If the EU believe I will, they are making a fundamental mistake.”
Despite the UK remaining locked to European customs rules on goods after the transition period ends in December 2020, the Prime Minister will also claim that the UK has left the Customs Union at this point.
Chequers not bad enough for you? Let's make it worse. https://t.co/5o9Xt9xLEm
— Gawain Towler (@GawainTowler) October 2, 2018
However, the UK’s ability to control its trade policy will be severely limited, with the UK reduced to a “regulatory vassal” of the bloc, according to Steve Baker, a Brexiteer Tory MP speaking on Radio 4 Tuesday morning.
Nations seeking trade deals with the UK after Brexit would simply “go to the EU” to negotiate if the UK is following the bloc’s rules, he argued.
Under the government proposals reported Tuesday, the arrangement would only end when the EU accepts a technological solution for keeping the Irish border open by doing checks remotely.
Brexiteers have argued this is possible and already done on many borders around the world. They also claim the EU is exaggerating the border issue to keep the UK tied to customs rules.
Any arrangement on customs rules and potential checks in the Irish Sea would be “temporary” the government insisted, but no specific time frame was given.
A senior minister said Downing Street believed the bargain could win a majority in parliament if it unlocked the talks and brought clarity about a withdrawal agreement and the future relationship with the bloc.
“We need to have a conversation about customs,” they said. “We have to move to unlock the talks and that is going to mean compromising on signing comprehensive free-trade deals immediately.”
Tories Rally Behind ‘Plan A+’ Trade Deal, Majority of Cabinet Abandon May’s ‘Chequers’ Plan https://t.co/81oIYVMwBg
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 24, 2018