Andrea Leadsom arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street | Jack Taylor/Getty Images
UK minister: Customs lock-in after Brexit not ‘will of the people’
The leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom says Britain cannot be ‘held against its will’ in a customs arrangement.
Updated 11/12/18, 2:58 PM CET
A Brexit deal that locks the U.K. into a customs union with the EU would not “fulfill the will of the people” and would probably be voted down by MPs, House of Commons leader and former Tory minister Andrea Leadsom said Sunday.
Leadsom made the comments during an interview on BBC 5 Live after a junior transport minister, Jo Johnson, resigned from his post on Friday and called for a second referendum on Prime Minister Theresa May’s “incoherent” Brexit strategy.
Leadsom dismissed the calls for another Brexit referendum and instead urged her “colleagues to support the prime minister.”
But the Brexiteer minister fired a warning shot across May’s bows on the nature of the temporary customs arrangement that U.K. negotiators have been working through the weekend to pin down.
It is envisaged as a way to provide reassurance that a hard border in Northern Ireland will not be needed once the standalone transition period comes to an end.
The key point of disagreement is over how to ensure the arrangement is temporary. EU officials have said the U.K. would not be able to exit unilaterally because that would not constitute a true “backstop” solution to avoid the need for border checks.
Leadsom’s comments underline the fact that Brexiteer ministers will scrutinize carefully the precise mechanism that the two sides agree for how the customs arrangement will be ended. The Commons leader stressed that “the U.K. cannot be held against its will in a customs arrangement.”
“It cannot be a decision that can be overturned by the European Union,” she added. “That would be to then fail to fulfill on the will of the people, expressed in the referendum and I very much doubt we’d get it through parliament.”
Separately, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer wrote in the Sunday Times that “there is no duty on MPs to surrender to a bad deal.”
Should the Brexit deal fail, then “parliament must take back control. There is no mandate for a no-deal,” Starmer added.
“Motions will be tabled, amendments will be pressed and a no-confidence vote can be triggered,” he said. “I remain convinced as ever that the consequences of no deal would be so severe that it cannot be allowed to happen.”
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