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May weighs up plans to keep Brexit deal alive

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Officials have been drafting a new law to provide for a customs-union style arrangement with the EU to guarantee there is no need for checks on goods crossing the UK's border.

London

THERESA May is weighing up plans to win the support of opposition Labour politicians for her Brexit deal, including potentially a much tighter customs relationship with the European Union, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The prime minister could set out her proposals in a speech later this week, although none of the plans have been finalised.

Officials have been drafting a new law to provide for a customs-union style arrangement with the EU to guarantee there is no need for checks on goods crossing the UK's border.

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The idea is designed to appeal to the Labour Party, which is calling for full permanent membership of a customs union with the EU, in an effort to break the deadlock in Parliament that has held up Britain's divorce from the bloc.

Despite the breakdown in cross-party negotiations between the government and the Labour opposition last week, Mrs May's team are still considering whether to press ahead with the customs arrangement plan when they put the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to a vote next month, the person said.

But the approach is a risky one for Mrs May as it could trigger resignations from her Cabinet. The premier has promised to take Britain out of the EU's customs union in order to be free to strike trade deals with other countries around the world.

Pro-Brexit ministers and those with ambitions for the party leadership would be the most likely to quit if she abandoned this red line.

Mrs May will convene a meeting of her Cabinet on Tuesday to consider how to respond to the collapse of the cross-party talks with Labour.

Another option would be to hold a set of so-called indicative votes in the House of Commons, asking members of Parliament to choose between a range of Plan B options. But there would be little point in pursuing this idea if Labour's Jeremy Corbyn did not promise to abide by the results.

Mrs May has said she will put the Withdrawal Agreement Bill - which enshrines the Brexit divorce deal into law - to a vote in Parliament in the week of June 3. Among other measures, it's likely to include beefed up protections for workers' rights, which has also been a key demand of the Labour Party. BLOOMBERG