Thirteen senior Conservatives have written to Theresa May urging her not to agree to Labour’s plans for a customs union with the EU, which they said would be the “worst of both worlds”.
The letter, which was signed by, among others, Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Former Brexit Secretary David Davis, former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, and the Chairman of the influential Conservative backbench 1922 committee Sir Graham Brady, laid out major policy and political reasons why the customs union would be a bad decision for the party and the country.
The top Conservatives warned of the “democratic deficit” being created in the UK, in which British MPs would have no say over future trade deals. It said “a Latvian MEP would have more say over our trade policy than anyone elected in this country”.
13 ex-Cabinet & Sir Graham Brady letter to the PM: “A Customs Union Brexit deal with Labour is both bad policy and bad politics”. Letter in full here. pic.twitter.com/fHaKxJruLp
— Greg Hands (@GregHands) May 14, 2019
Losing considerable foreign policy influence by not being able to negotiate trade deals elsewhere would also be a blow, the letter said. Being locked into Europe’s economic bloc would also bring costs to essential leverage over security, counter-terrorism, and human rights.
As well as referring to the deal as bad policy, the signatories said that they did not believe such a deal would succeed in the Commons as it would lose the support of Conservative MPs. They wrote: “we believe that a customs union-based deal with Labour will very likely lose the support of Conservative MPs like us, who backed the withdrawal agreement in March… and you would be unlikely to gain as many Labour MPs to compensate.”
Perhaps the most telling part of the letter, however, was the final paragraph in which the senior MPs make reference to the fact that Theresa May will not be leader for much longer and that “no leader can bind his or her successor, so the deal would be at best temporary and at worst illusory”.
Brexit Leader Farage Warns Anger at Establishment Betrayal Putting People Off Voting https://t.co/h9jYRIT5Qa
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 14, 2019
Two of the signatories to the letter are Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, both potential Conservative leadership contenders who seem to be implying that they would, if elected leader, not honour any customs union deal made with the Labour Party.
Mr Johnson has previously described Jeremy Corbyn as a “Marxist” and said ” it seems utterly incredible that he has now been invited into Downing Street to negotiate a Brexit deal… [and] to get Corbyn onside, the Government is apparently willing to abandon the cardinal principle and central logic of Brexit.”
The letter is just the latest indication that the talks with Labour may be falling apart and will soon be at an end. Just yesterday Chancellor Philip Hammond said the talks were being held on a “false premise” and should be abandoned. Mr Hammond described the talks as “amiable” but said they were unlikely to result in a deal.
Meanwhile, MPs are reportedly hoping to return to the idea of ‘indicative votes’, motions put forward by MPs which are then debated and voted upon by the Commons. Series of these votes have already been held in the Commons but totally failed to break the deadlock, only confirming that Parliament was not satisfied with any option put before it.
One “government source” was quoted as saying “if we can’t do a deal with Labour we need to throw our weight behind indicative votes”.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 13, 2019