Clean Brexit: Prime Minister Promises UK Will Leave Customs Union

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The government has repeated its promise that the UK will leave the European Union’s (EU) Customs Union, after reports in the Sunday papers suggested the Prime Minister was prepared to abandoned a clean Brexit.

“We will not be staying in the Customs Union or joining a customs union,” a Downing Street source said Monday.

Over the weekend, reports claimed Theresa May had privately said the UK might stay in a customs union with the bloc, unable to control trade police, after unelected Peers voted to stay in such a union.

The Lords vote was quickly followed by MPs, including senior Tories, moving to force a Commons debate on staying locked in a customs union on Thursday afternoon.

However, health secretary Jeremy Hunt also rejected the reports on BBC1’s Breakfast Monday. “Theresa May’s position on this has been very, very clear,” he said.

“She has said that we are not going to be part of the Customs Union or any customs union. That position hasn’t changed and Downing Street have been clear about that this morning.”

Questions on the Customs Union arise as the EU rejects the UK’s proposals for the Irish border after Brexit. They have insisted the UK must remain in a union if a hard border with the Republic of Ireland or a sea border within the UK is to be avoided.

Senior Tories had warned Mrs. May over the weekend not to abandon plans for a clean Brexit, and Brexit secretary David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson are reportedly set to press the Prime Minister on the issue further.

Yet John Redwood, the Tory backbencher, said on Monday he did not feel that Downing Street’s reiteration of the plan to leave any form of customs union had been necessary.

“I don’t think I needed reassuring,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I’ve heard many times the prime minister say that it is our policy to leave the Single Market and Customs Union.

“More importantly, on a three-line whip, we have twice now had formal, important votes in the House of Commons on this, and the House of Commons voted on both occasions by a big margin that we should leave the Single Market and the Customs Union.”

Asked if the Prime Minister might shift her policy, Mr. Redwood added: “Theresa May won’t change her mind, I assume, because she’s been crystal clear on this throughout, and the Conservative manifesto was quite clear on this, and we need to stick to our word.”

Inside a customs union, Britain would be unable to control its trade policy and strike trade deals with partners like the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as emerging markets elsewhere.

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