Analysis

Cabinet customs chaos rams home need for People’s Vote

by Hugo Dixon | 03.05.2018

Nearly two years after the referendum the Cabinet hasn’t a clue what to do on customs post-Brexit. Theresa May irresponsibly triggered Article 50 without a plan. She still doesn’t have one.

Meanwhile, time is ticking. The European Council summit is supposed to resolve the Irish border issue, which is intimately linked to customs, next month. Given the Cabinet chaos, there’s a risk we will be completely rolled over in the Brexit talks and that business will delay investing in our economy.

The new Home Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday joined Brexiters to torpedo May’s favourite scheme, the so-called “customs partnership”. This convoluted plan has been rightly dismissed by the EU as “magical thinking” and by pro-Europeans, as well as Brexiters. The Mail describes the plan as “dead in the water”

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But the Brexiters’ own favoured scheme, “maximum facilitation”, doesn’t work either. Philip Hammond rightly told the Brexit War Cabinet that it would not “resolve the need for a hard Irish border”.

May has asked for more work to be done on both proposals, according to the Indie. But the Times says the chances of forming a new consensus is “low”, with the time left to reach a compromise before the summit in the “days, not weeks”. InFacts understands that EU officials were expecting to hear about the government’s plan on May 15, so there was enough time to prepare for the summit.

The Chancellor warned the War Cabinet that time was pressing, according to the Mail. “‘If we don’t keep moving forward it will be a car crash,’ he said – only for one pro-Brexit minister to point out, to laughter, that ‘the best way of avoiding a car crash is to stop.’”

Quite so. Shall we call the whole thing off?

More seriously, the Cabinet chaos is showing why politicians mustn’t have the final say on Brexit. During the referendum, the customs union was barely mentioned. All the more reason for a people’s vote on the final deal.

InFacts is a founding member of the People’s Vote campaign.

2 Responses to “Cabinet customs chaos rams home need for People’s Vote”

  • It would have been impossible for the Prime Minister to adopt a “plan” for Brexit before triggering Article 50. Her Party is so divided between various factions and various delusions that a “plan” for Brexit could only ever emerge from the brutal contact with reality in the the form of the Brexit negotiations themselves. Even this may be insufficient, as the current otherworldly discussion within the Cabinet on Customs Union shows.

  • What’s wrong with a customs union seen from the brexiters side?
    I watched many discussions on print and television before the referendum. One thing I remember clearly is the common expression of something like “We joined a free trade/customs union and want out because it has evolved into a (various invectives) superstate.
    Grab the offer!