We'll 'leave the customs union, and that's final'

Michael Portillo BBC this week EU Brexit

BBCMichael Portillo claimed we're heading for'Brexit Light

Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has warned that Britain has yet to propose a solution to the Irish border issue and risks crashing out of the European Union if progress is not made ahead of a Brussels summit next month, according to Reuters report.

But Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet is divided, with some pro-Brexit ministers openly dismissing what is believed to be her preferred option - a customs partnership under which Britain would collect tariffs on goods entering the country on the EU's behalf.

At the same time she stressed the EU's "backstop" solution - that the North should remain aligned with the European Union if there is no Brexit deal - remained unacceptable to the UK.

The white paper was announced just hours after rock legend Sir Mick Jagger added his voice to calls for the Prime Minister to spell out her Brexit strategy and end the customs confusion.

They have said a customs union is the best way of achieving it.

European Union proposals to resolve the problem by keeping Northern Ireland in the single market have been condemned as "unacceptable" by Mrs May as they would effectively put a border down the Irish Sea.

She explained that the border had 270 crossings, some of them unmarked roads and rural lanes and she feared that they would be attacked.

However, Theresa May has already said that she wants to avoid free movement and wants to "seek a new customs arrangement with the EU" which "may contain elements of the single market".

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Until recently, "backstop" was a reference to the UK's government commitment in December 2017 for a customs solution that would help to secure an open border in Ireland even if negotiations failed.

The pound's jump, though brief, suggests the currency remains vulnerable to Brexit's tos and fros, even as the United Kingdom economy has shown signs of strengthening.

Downing St in a sort of non- denial denial have said no decisions have been taken.

Cabinet office minister David Lidington admitted this morning that the government had asked lawyers to look at the two post-Brexit customs options to check if they are legal.

In that sense, officials close to the negotiations suggest that Britain would, in any case, need to seek an extension to membership of the Customs Union, or quickly create a new arrangement that can swiftly mirror what now exists.

Later, Mrs May confirmed the UK's alternative "backstop" would be produced "in due course".

Maximum facilitation, known in Whitehall jargon as "max fac", relies on new technology and is thought to be a potential compromise that could win support from Conservative MPs.

But the paper could be largely ignored at the summit unless the Irish question was solved to the satisfaction of Dublin and Brussels. The Irish Government has made it clear that it will veto a transitional deal if a hard border is imposed between it and Northern Ireland.

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