Brexit: No 10 bid to assure ministers over customs union

Brexit: No 10 bid to assure ministers over customs union

The prime minister would “never agree” to a permanent customs union with the EU, No 10 says, amid concern from ministers about Brexit compromises.

They are thought to fear that Theresa May will agree to such a move, if a trade deal cannot be done in time.

Downing Street insists any post-Brexit customs union would be “time limited”.

EU leaders meet next week for what has been described by European Council president Donald Tusk as a “moment of truth for Brexit negotiations”.

The EU leaders are not expected to reach agreement with the UK but they say they want to see if “decisive progress” has been made to convene a special summit in November, to finalise a deal.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that a motorway in Kent is being shut overnight as part of contingency preparations in case the Brexit negotiations ultimately fail and the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 without a deal.

And Northern Ireland’s DUP, which supports Theresa May’s government in key Commons votes, has warned it could vote against her Budget next month, if Brexit negotiations result in trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The UK is due to leave both the customs union and the single market when it leaves the EU in March 2019.

Trying to resolve what should happen on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – an EU member – has been a key sticking point in Brexit negotiations.

The UK and the EU both want to avoid a “hard border” – physical checks or infrastructure – should a long-term trade deal not be concluded before temporary post-Brexit arrangements designed to give businesses time to adjust come to an end in December 2020.

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Brussels has suggested that, if that happens, Northern Ireland should stay in the EU customs union – something the UK says is unacceptable as it would effectively create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, down the Irish Sea.

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