Customs pact will rip Tories apart, PM told

Theresa May

Theresa May

Johnson told the Daily Mail newspaper that the partnership idea was "crazy" and would create a "whole new web of bureaucracy".

The EU's budget commissioner Gunther Oettinger voiced concerns Wednesday that negotiations on Brexit would stay deadlocked, as he called British PM Theresa May "weak" while mocking her foreign minister.

Her verdict on Mr Johnson will be telling, but the fact that David Davis has already been allowed to stay for so long in his post as Brexit secretary since his appointment almost two years ago suggests that she is a weak leader.

Of course, when Mrs May herself wanted to see how the agricultural sector was preparing for Brexit, she went to Bangor, in north Down, in March rather than anywhere in the vicinity of the border.

If Mrs May hopes to retain her authority, it is hard to see how she can avoid removing any minister who uses such dismissive terminology over an option which Downing Street has stressed remains very much on the table.

Mrs May's spokesman said Mr Johnson had earlier supported her after a speech outlining both options.

"Following last week's sub-committee meeting, it was agreed that there are unresolved issues in relation to both models and that further work is needed".

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The comments come after May's Cabinet last week failed to agree on a preferred option for Britain's future customs relationship with EU. "If you have the new customs partnership, you have a insane system whereby you end up collecting the tariffs on behalf of the European Union at the United Kingdom frontier".

He said that was "not taking back control" of Britain's trade policy, laws, borders or money, repeating his main arguments used before the referendum on European Union membership in 2016.

At weekly Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn taunted Theresa May over her foreign secretary's assessment of her customs plan as "crazy".

Senior Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg applauded Mr Johnson, saying: "Boris hits the nail on the head".

Mr Johnson and other Tory Brexiteers want a looser "maximum facilitation" or "max fac" customs arrangement, which uses digital technology to prevent smuggling between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Mr Duncan Smith also insisted an eventual decision would not be the Prime Minister's, adding: "We run a Cabinet government".

Corbyn said Greg Clark appeared to back the "crazy customs partnership" proposal but had made clear he did not back a technological alternative, prompting May to insist the Business Secretary had said the United Kingdom would be leaving the customs union.

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