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'Trust me to deliver' Brexit, says Theresa May
UK Prime Minister Theresa May called for unity over Brexit, following a week in which Cabinet tensions spilled over and her plan for Britain's trading relationship with the European Union (EU) was labelled "crazy" by a key party member.
"You can trust me to deliver," Mrs May wrote in the Sunday Times newspaper. "The path I am setting out is the path to deliver the Brexit people voted for," she said, adding: "I will not let you down."
Less than a year until the UK leaves the EU, Mrs May's government still can't agree what to seek in the exit negotiations. The resignation of a key ally left Mrs May outnumbered in her inner "war cabinet" over her proposal for a close customs relationship with the bloc, while the Sunday Telegraph reported that at least 12 ministers - of 28 who sit in Cabinet with Mrs May - are set to oppose her plan.
Mrs May last week ordered her ministers to take responsibility for resolving the Brexit customs dilemma themselves, splitting her inner Brexit Cabinet into two working groups to iron out their differences. Both include ministers from the pro- and anti-Brexit factions, but two of the most hardline on each side - Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, responsible for the "crazy" barb, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond - aren't included.
There are two options under consideration. Mrs May's preferred plan would see the UK mirror the EU's customs regime, collecting EU tariffs and reimbursing businesses if UK tariffs are lower.
A second plan, known as "maximum facilitation" or Max Fac, would set up a looser relationship between the two trading partners and use technology to minimise disruption and border checks. Brexit-backers prefer the second version, while the EU is now starting to engage with Mrs May's proposal - a plan it had previously branded unworkable.
As well as trade, the decision is critical to how Mrs May plans to meet her pledge to avoid a hard border in Ireland after Brexit. Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that the premier's customs partnership idea could be the basis of negotiation between the two sides. He dismissed the option to rely on technology.
"We just simply think it won't work," Mr Coveney added. "The only way we can find a solution here that means that we have a fully seamless border - with no physical infrastructure and no checks and controls - is to maintain alignment in terms of rules and regulations on both sides of the border."
Meanwhile, Mrs May has put off sending a key piece of Brexit legislation to the House of Commons after peers repeatedly defeated the government as it passed through the upper House of Lords. The Commons debates, when they come, are likely to expose her predicament even further - she's stuck between a likely majority for a customs union, and the more than 60 lawmakers in her Conservative Party threatening to derail her government if she goes for one.
The main opposition Labour Party is also under pressure over how close to stay to the EU after Brexit. Leader Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong eurosceptic, has so far resisted calls to try to keep Britain in the bloc's single market, arguing that its rules would prevent him from fulfilling policy pledges including taking some businesses into state ownership. BLOOMBERG