Published On: Mon, Apr 1st, 2019

EU news: EU ready to ‘discuss’ customs union plan as May is urged to BETRAY red lines | World | News

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Nathalie Loiseau, who resigned as minister for European Affairs last week to run as MEP in the upcoming European elections, lashed out against Britain, claiming there was a “majority over nothing” in the Commons. But she said Brussels was keeping its door open to “discussing” a compromise option which could see the UK remaining within the customs union. She told French channel BFM TV: “If they vote for it, we will discuss it.” 

Mrs Loiseau’s comment came after the EU’s Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Friday Brussels would be “open” to allow the UK to remain in the customs union.

Speaking to members of the College of Europe campus in Warsaw, he said: “We are ready to be even more ambitious should the UK’s red-lines evolve.

“For instance, we are open to work on the principle of a permanent customs union should the UK decide to take this path.”

Theresa May has been ruling out since the beginning of the Brexit negotiation a permanence in the customs union.  

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And she retained this position in the 2017 Conservative Party’s manifesto, which states that “as we leave the European Union, we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union”.

However, the House of Commons seems to be uniting around a soft Brexit.

On Thursday, MPs voted on eight possible Brexit plans, and the one which came the closest to pass through Parliament urged the Government to discuss with the EU a customs union membership.

The plan, to be brought back during today’s second round of indicative votes, was initially tabled by pro-EU Tory MP Kenneth Clarke.

The text of the proposal urged the Government to negotiate a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU” in any Brexit deal. 

A similar agreement would not risk creating a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland but it would prevent the UK from freely striking trade deals with countries outside of the single market.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said Mrs May could be forced to accept her withdrawal agreement will never pass through Parliament and cave in to the will of MPs if they vote in favour of a customs union membership.

He told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “If Parliament is voting overwhelmingly against leaving the European Union without a deal but is voting in favour of a softer Brexit, then I don’t think it’s sustainable to ignore Parliament’s position and therefore leave without a deal.

“I think we also have to recognise my party does not have the votes to get its manifesto position through the House of Commons at the moment. 

“We are in an environment when it is not just about going for your first choice.

“Sometimes you do have to accept your second or third choice in order to avoid an outcome you consider to be even worse.”

Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement was rejected for the third time on Friday by a majority of 58.

But the Prime Minister looks set to present it again to Parliament later this week. 

A 10 Downing Street spokesman said: “We are committed to delivering the Brexit deal – which does not include membership of the custom union.

“What it does ensure is that we take back control of our money, laws and borders and it means we can strike independent trade deals with third countries.

“The legal default is now that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on 12 April.

“However Parliament has been clear it will not permit the UK to leave without a deal.”   

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