Theresa May threatened with Government collapse over EU customs plans

The UK leader is now facing a near-civil war on her backbenches

Theresa May threatened with Government collapse over EU customs plans

British Prime Minister Theresa May during a visit to the Oxley Group head office in Ulverston, Cumbria, 30-04-2016. Image: Christopher Furlong/PA Wire/PA Images

The British Prime Minister has been handed an ‘ultimatum’ by pro-Brexit members of her Government over plans to forge a future ‘customs partnership’ with the EU.

Theresa May has been warned in correspondence that accepting a ‘customs partnership’ with the EU would lead to a "collapse" of her Government.

Mrs May is meeting members of her Brexit Cabinet in attempt to reach a deal on whether the UK should leave the EU Customs Union or enter a new customs partnership.

She has repeatedly insisted the UK will leave the customs union and single market after Brexit – despite the issues this will cause with the Irish border.

Civil war

The UK leader is now facing a near-civil war on her backbenches with pro-Remain Tories threatening to vote with the opposition in an effort to stay in the customs union.

Meanwhile, a group of Brexiteer Tory MPs have threatened to vote against the Government if it attempts to remain in the union – or force through a new ‘customs partnership.’

MPs on the 60-strong European Research Group, led by Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, have written personal letters to the Prime Minister ahead of her crunch meeting of the Brexit war cabinet.

Separately, eurosceptic Conservatives have sent a 30-page dossier to Downing Street in which they detail their opposition to the customs partnership plan.

Brexiteers

If the Brexiteers withdraw their support for Government bills in the UK Parliament, it would lead to legislative paralysis and put Mrs May's future as leader in doubt.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who is steadfastly against remaining in the customs union and who last week dismissed the customs partnership plan as "completely cretinous," has said he is “aware of the correspondence.”

He said the letter sent to Downing Street threatening Government collapse “represents a widespread view within the party but is not formally a European Research Group paper."

Good Friday Agreement

At the same time as Cabinet ministers and Tory MPs fight their Brexit battles, peers in the House of Lords are on course to inflict another thumping defeat on the Government on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

After nine defeats in the Lords already, peers are expected to back a cross-party amendment to maintain the open border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and safeguard the Good Friday Agreement.

Brexit

Leading the Cabinet charge to leave the customs union are Brexiteers Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Davis and Liam Fox, all leading figures in the Leave campaign in the 2016 EU referendum.

But the dramatic resignation of the strongly pro-Remain Amber Rudd on Sunday has suddenly altered the delicate balance between Leavers and Remainers on the Cabinet sub-committee.

Mrs May will now be desperate to avoid any more Cabinet resignations having lost Sir Michael Fallon, Damian Green, Priti Patel, Justine Greening and now Ms Rudd in less than a year since the general election.

With reporting from IRN ...