Home / Lead News / Theresa May ready to cave in to hardline Brexiters’ demands

Theresa May ready to cave in to hardline Brexiters’ demands

PM set to cede on customs bill rather than allow Rees-Mogg to stage show of strength
Theresa May is preparing to cave in to hardline Brexiters over amendments to the customs bill rather than allow Jacob Rees-Mogg and colleagues to stage a show of parliamentary strength.
As the prime minister tries to sell her Chequers deal on Brexit to the public and her own backbenchers, the European Research Group (ERG) of pro-Brexit MPs tabled four amendments to the legislation last week.
The ERG believes May’s “facilitated customs arrangement”, which would see the UK collect EU tariffs on some imports, and plans for a “common rulebook” for goods and agriculture, would allow for too close a future relationship with the EU27.
Rees-Mogg held talks with the chief whip, Julian Smith, on Monday, and Downing Street suggested it had not ruled out accepting amendments that did not contradict government policy.
However, a source suggested there were still concerns about one of the four, which would prohibit HMRC from “collection of certain taxes or duties on behalf of territory without reciprocity” – a move aimed at blocking the facilitated customs arrangement.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “There are a number of amendments on both pieces of legislations and, as we did with the withdrawal bill, we will consider the amendments and set out our position in due course”.
Downing Street said it was “very clear that the proposal we put forward at Chequers delivers on the will of the people in the referendum”.
“Cabinet is behind it, businesses have come out to support it and now we need to get on with negotiating with the EU,” the spokesman said.
Scott Mann, the MP for North Cornwall, became the latest Conservative MP to resign a government post over the Chequers deal on Monday, in a rolling protest from concerned backbenchers.
A parliamentary private secretary at the Treasury – a junior government post – Mann said in his resignation letter: “Elements of the Brexit white paper will inevitably put me in direct conflict with the views expressed by a large section of my constituents.”
The prime minister was at Farnborough airshow on Monday morning, before heading back to Westminster to report to MPs on last week’s Nato summit.
Fears are growing at Westminster that there is now no Brexit deal – not the Chequers plan, nor David Davis’s Canada-style trade deal, nor a no-deal scenario – that could command the backing of a majority of MPs.
A senior Labour source expressed surprise the government had not postponed debate on the two bills when it announced planned parliamentary business at the end of last week rather than face the risk of a series of embarrassing defeats.
“They’re in a place where they don’t want votes that could look like a vote of confidence,” he said, adding: “The crunch might not come today but come the autumn there’s going to have to be a reckoning.”
Meanwhile, the former education secretary Justine Greening has become the most senior Conservative to lend her backing to the idea of a referendum to allow the public to have a say on the proposed Brexit deals.
Writing in the Times, the MP for Putney said the “only solution is to take the final Brexit decision out of the hands of deadlocked politicians” by letting voters choose from three options: May’s final deal, a no-deal Brexit or staying in the EU.
Greening proposed a system using first and second-preference votes to ensure the preferred model achieved more then 50% of the final vote.
Dominic Grieve, a Tory remainer, gave reluctant backing to the prime minister’s negotiating strategy, arguing May was “doing her best to minimise the damage that flows from the decision to leave the European Union” and that her approach was a lot better than the alternative being promoted by the hard Brexiters.
Writing in the Evening Standard, Grieve wrote that “in a deeply divided country we must either work together to get the best deal we can” and said it was necessary to accept compromise or the Tory right should accept that Brexit cannot be implemented.