United Kingdom business group warns patience running out on Brexit

Geraldine Edwards
July 7, 2018

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Rees-Mogg, tipped as a potential Tory leader, warned the Prime Minister that backsliding on her promise to leave the single market and customs union would divide Conservatives like Sir Robert Peel, who plunged the party into the political wilderness for almost three decades over the Corn Laws.

British Prime Minister Theresa May held talks Tuesday with her Dutch counterpart in a crunch week when she is due to thrash out with ministers the shape of trade ties with the European Union after Brexit.

Downing Street announced this morning that after months of bitter infighting the Prime Minister will seek agreement on a new customs proposal when her Cabinet meets on Friday at Chequers.

"The prime minister must stick to her righteous cause and deliver what she has said she would", Rees-Mogg wrote and referred to the demise of 19th-century Conservative leader Robert Peel, who found himself out of power when he broke a key manifesto pledge and split his party.

"This left the Conservatives out of office for 28 years".

Rees-Mogg's intervention prompted a furious backlash from Remain-voting Tories.

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"Will we come together and stand together as a party, as a government and as a country?".

North Dorset MP Simon Hoare said "the hectoring nonsense" and "blackmail" had to stop.

Ill-feeling within the Tory party has focused on the role played by Mr Rees-Mogg, leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group of MPs.

"All of us, we are Irish", concluded former Luxembourg prime minister Juncker, this time speaking in English.

"I have great confidence in the prime minister".

The Times of London reported Monday that a senior civil servant in the department overseeing negotiations with the EU had briefed ministers on the dire situation, telling them they had no chance of a bespoke trade deal in which British companies would have privileged access to the European market.

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May has pledged to overcome deep divisions in her cabinet of ministers at a meeting at her country residence this week and come up with a blueprint for the future relationship with the European Union, a step needed to move forward all-but-stalled Brexit talks.

Brexiteers oppose the PM's favoured option of a customs partnership with the EU, which would see the United Kingdom collect tariffs set by the EU customs union on goods entering the country on behalf of the bloc.

Both options have been dismissed by the EU.

Earlier in the session a smile flashed across the Chancellor's face when Labour former minister Chris Leslie asked Treasury ministers if they knew what the "mythical third customs plan" was.

Addressing MPs in the Commons on Monday afternoon, after a meeting with DUP leader Arlene Foster, Mrs May again stressed the United Kingdom would leave the single market and customs union.

"All the prime minister says on Brexit is, 'We need clarity about our future relationship.' Yes we do: we've been waiting for over two years for any clarity from this government".

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He said: "Clause 10 of the EU Withdrawal Act very clearly makes it unlawful for ministers to do anything which would lead to any form of physical customs border on the island of Ireland".

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