May battling own Cabinet over EU customs union

Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson are among the group of world leaders known as The Elders

'Coming out of the customs union means that we will be free to have those deals, deals that suit the United Kingdom, ' she told the BBC on a local election campaign visit to a firm in the West Midlands.

Mrs May last week suffered a defeat at the hands of peers in the House of Lords when they backed an amendment to compel ministers to explain what they have done to ensure that Britain can remain in a customs union after leaving the EU.

The battle over customs rules is likely to reach a climax in a Commons vote as early as next month. Whether Britain should stay in the customs union or leave it to strike a trade deal from outside the bloc will be part of the Brexit Trade Bill, which will be voted upon in May.

Supporters of staying in some form of a customs union say this would avoid tariffs for British businesses, which could push up the cost of goods and services.

On Monday, Justice Minister Lord Keen of Elie sparked heckles as he hit back at the amendment's backers during the debate, declaring that the adoption of a "body of foreign law" would be "one of the greatest constitutional outrages since 1689".

The UK government has insisted that Britain will leave the customs union, ahead of a symbolic vote in Parliament on Thursday, with pro-Brexit Tory MPs reportedly turning the pressure up on Prime Minister Theresa May.

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Labour has called for the United Kingdom to join a new customs union after Brexit, saying it would leave the current one but negotiate a treaty afterwards that would "do the work of the customs union".

Arch Brexiteer and chair of the European Research Group Jacob Rees-Mogg has argued that staying within a customs union would leave the United Kingdom paying Brussels huge sums each year while having no say on rules and regulations imposed on business and commerce. This means the United Kingdom is not allowed to broker its own trade deals. They argue this could boost jobs and the economy.

The Sunday Times reports that Downing Street has privately admitted the Prime Minister may have to accept some form of customs union with the EU.

His Labour Shadow Brexit Keir Starmer revealed that Davis' lawyer had praised the European Union charter when he sought to challenge the legality of powers to intercept calls and texts in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014.

This not only avoids any new hard borders but is also fundamentally in the economic interest of the United Kingdom itself, and is advocated by the CBI and other business groups.

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