HMRC attack Theresa May's EU Custom Partnership: Brexit News for Saturday 12 May

HMRC attack Theresa May's EU Custom Partnership: Brexit News for Saturday 12 May
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HMRC ‘says customs partnership won’t work’ as Theresa May softens stance on MaxFac…

Theresa May’s plan for a customs partnership with the EU is “unviable”, HM Revenue & Customs believes, as it emerged Mrs May is prepared to accept the Brexiteers’ favoured “Max Fac” option. HMRC believes the customs partnership idea is “incredibly complicated” and impractical, Whitehall sources have told The Telegraph, and the idea it could be used to solve the Irish border problem is “for the birds”. A customs partnership with Brussels – which involves collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU – is opposed by a 6-5 majority of Mrs May’s Brexit “war Cabinet”. Leave campaigners including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove prefer the alternative “Max Fac” option – short for maximum facilitation – which relies on new technology and trusted trader schemes to avoid a hard border with the EU. – Telegraph (£)

… but the PM remains under pressure to make a decision…

May must settle on a customs proposal to unite, or at least not tear apart, her government, her party, Britain’s parliament and one that could be backed by the EU. She has even divided her cabinet into two camps to work on improving the two proposals now on offer to try to make one of them more palatable to the warring factions. There is little time. The EU is expecting her to have made progress by a summit in June and both sides want to reach a deal by October. Crucial bills must also be passed by parliament before Britain’s EU departure next March.  – Reuters

  • Brexit customs standoff could go on for another week – sources –  Guardian

…after Irish Foreign Minister urges ‘substantial’ UK progress in border talks

Simon Coveney has told British ministers that he wants to see “substantial and measurable” progress over the Irish border in Brexit talks by next month. The Irish foreign minister held a series of meetings in London yesterday. The UK cabinet is divided over proposals from Theresa May, the prime minister, to sign the UK up to a customs partnership. The EU has warned on several occasions that if the UK leaves the customs union and single market, it would lead to the return of a hard border in Ireland. Mrs May has committed to avoiding a return to the border of the past but behind-the-scenes negotiations have failed to create a breakthrough on how that would be avoided. – The Times (£)

UK ports body says it is ‘ready for Brexit’

The UK’s container ports are ready to cope with Britain’s exit from the European Union whatever trading arrangements are put in place, the new chairman of the UK’s Major Ports Group said on Friday. “As an industry, we’re ready and prepared,” said Charles Hammond, chief executive of Edinburgh-based Forth Ports, who took over as chair of the trade association on Tuesday. After the country leaves the EU’s single market and customs union, imports from the trading bloc will face customs and regulatory checks when entering the UK. Businesses have warned of the economic consequences of disruption at the border if goods are delayed from entering. – FT (£)

Tory rebel Dominic Grieve backs second EU referendum

A leading Tory Brexit rebel has declared he supports a second EU referendum after questioning if the public know what they voted for as he called for Boris Johnson so resign. Former attorney general Dominic Grieve admitted he did not give the EU referendum in 2016 much thought as he branded his Brexiteer colleagues “fundamentally illogical”. Mr Grieve said: “This is a personal opinion and I have to stress that. But I think there is an argument, at the end of all this, for asking the public: is this what you really want?  “Because it seems to me that the difficulty with the 2016 referendum was that we asked an abstract question and people gave an abstract answer.” – Express

Ministers tell Scottish Government ‘door still open’ for post-Brexit powers deal

The UK government has told its Scottish counterparts the “door is still open” for a deal to end the long-running Brexit powers dispute. Despite months of talks between the two sides, the Scottish government has said it cannot yet sign up to the UK government’s Brexit bill. It says the bill could see some of Holyrood’s powers constrained by Westminster for up to seven years. MSPs are due to vote on whether to formally consent to the bill next week. The SNP has been joined by Scottish Labour, the Greens and Liberal Democrats in opposing the bill as it currently stands – with only the Conservatives thought likely to back it in next Tuesday’s vote. – BBC News

Corbyn dismisses calls to back Norway-style EU relations

Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed he is opposed to Britain opting for a Norway-style relationship with the EU after Brexit, despite fresh calls from Labour MPs to back the model in a parliamentary vote. The Labour leader claimed the UK would be left as “rule-takers not rule-makers” if it remained in the European Economic Area (EEA) once outside the EU. The House of Lords this week paved the way for MPs to hold a vote on EEA membership, which allows countries to be part of the EU’s single market without being full members of the bloc. Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are all EEA members but not part of the EU. By amending the EU Withdrawal Bill to allow for continued EEA membership, peers have prompted a major headache for both Mr Corbyn and the Prime Minister. – Sky News

  • Corbyn condemns EU withdrawal plan as ‘Whitehall power grab’ – Guardian

Brexit campaigner hit by £70K fine brands it a ‘politically motivated attack’

A top Brexit campaigner clobbered by a £70,000 fine from the Electoral Commission branded them Remoaners.Insurance tycoon Arron Banks – whose Leave.EU Brexit campaign was found to have broken rules on spending during the referendum campaign – insisted the punishment was a “politically motivated attack on Brexit”… Mr Banks raged: “The entire commission is composed of former MPs, Liberal MPs, the SNP, former Labour leaders of councils, all sorts of people that all believe in Remain. “We view the Electoral Commission announcement as a politically motivated attack on Brexit and the 17.4 million people who defied the establishment to vote for an independent Britain.” – The Sun

Britain’s policies on austerity, immigration and terrorism are racist, claims UN inspector

Britain’s policies on austerity, immigration and tackling terrorism are racist, a United Nations watchdog has claimed. Ministers hit back after Tendayi Achiume, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on racism, called for the anti-terrorism Prevent strategy to be shut down and anti-immigration laws to be repealed. A Home Office source said the criticism was not based on “reality” while former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, saying her claims were “complete rubbish”. – Telegraph (£) 

MPs tore into Ms Achiume’s claims that Brexit had made Britain more racist branding them ‘complete rubbish’ and ‘not worth the paper they are written on’. Labour MP John Mann, chairman of the all party campaign group on anti-Semitism, told Mail Online: ‘An ignorant and foolish claim which has literally no basis in fact. Quite extraordinary buffoonery.’ – Mail Online

  • Top UN official claims Brexit and austerity are making Britain more racist – The Sun

Juncker attacks ‘part-time Europeans’ among EU governments

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday attacked “part-time” Europeans among the governments of EU member countries and called for greater solidarity within the bloc. He said the EU’s next long-term budget is “not a neutral accounting exercise” and “has to mirror great ambitions and European solidarity” — despite the constraints of Brexit, which the Commission estimates will blow a hole of between €12 and €13 billion a year in the EU’s accounts. – Politico


Matthew Elliott: Farewell to the Legatum Institute

As the country approaches the final months of the negotiations, I am keen to spend more time with my team at BrexitCentral, which has provided an essential platform for debate and news since its launch in September 2016.  I am sad to be leaving the Legatum Institute after an enjoyable fifteen months here. Sarah and I are very grateful to everyone for the warm welcome and for also embracing our new daughter Lottie into the Legatum family. The Institute is at a very exciting juncture, with new research programmes beginning to publish their first reports and new international partnerships producing cutting edge research which will have a global impact. I will continue to take a keen interest in the work of the Legatum Institute, and will be a cheerleader from the outside. – Legatum Institute

Marcus Fysh: We can sort post-Brexit customs, but not by wasting time over a longer transition

The legal basis for the concept of a transition period is difficult enough, as has been explained by the European Scrutiny Committee, without trying to extend bits of it such as a customs union, as some are suggesting. The UK is a long way from persuading the EU that joint committee arrangements in the Withdrawal Agreement that would govern transition should override the ECJ in determining compliance with EU statute during the transition period. The EU’s common commercial policy and its customs union relating to external tariffs and trade defences are not going to be put under any sort of UK control. – Marcus Fysh MP for the Telegraph (£)

James Blitz: Why businesses prefer MaxFac

It is the customs partnership that would probably prompt most doubts among business leaders. The “partnership” would mean Britain acting on the EU’s behalf when handling goods from elsewhere, imposing EU tariffs — even if higher — then passing the money on to Brussels… But as a scheme, the customs partnership is totally untried and untested. As one business figure puts it: “It involves having two tariffs, it involves tracking goods constantly, it involves importers paying a higher tariff rate today in order to get a rebate tomorrow. It brings lots of worries regarding cash flow and compliance — and big headaches if not done correctly.” … one business figure says: “Max fac is at least based on procedures that already exist. We have a baseline to work from, even if we don’t know the practical steps the government needs to take to make it happen.” – James Blitz for the FT (£)

Robin Dunbar: Brexit? Try Asking History

Mention of the original 1975 referendum reminds me that the one question I have never heard asked in the torrent of verbiage since June 2016 is why a generation that voted 67:33 to join the European Community in 1975 voted by the reverse proportion to leave 40 years later. Since this is the only generation that actually had experience of what life was like before the EU, perhaps this should have been the first question to ask. Ironically, in 1975, everywhere except the Outer Hebrides voted to join, with England significantly more positive than Scotland, Wales or Ulster[3]. Alas, the fickleness of time. – Robin Dunbar for Briefings for Brexit

Brendan O’Neill: The House of Lords is out of control — it’s time for abolition

The Lords have lost it. They’re out of control. They have taken a wrecking-ball to the government’s plans for Brexit 14 times in recent weeks, putting themselves on a war footing with the people we actually elect. They are behaving like they did in the first decade of the 20th century when they arrogantly vetoed the Liberal government’s People’s Budget. ‘The House of Lords regards all our liberties and political rights as enjoyed and as enjoyable only so long as they choose to let us go on having them’, fumed Winston Churchill back then.- Brendan O’Neill for The Spectator

Comment in Brief

  • Theresa May could use the Art of the Deal with Brussels – Telegraph editorial
  • What tribunal is to decide “Withdrawal Agreement” disputes? – Sir Richard Aikens for Briefings for Brexit
  • When it comes to Brexit most of our senior mandarins are working against the wishes of the British people – Richard Littlejohn for the Daily Mail
  • As with the EU, our relationship with Eurovision has been lost in translation – Tim Stanley for the Telegraph (£)
  • EU court backs war criminals – Joshua King for CommentCentral
  • The House of Lords is leaping to the defence of UK democracy – Vince Cable for the FT (£)
  • Ten signs that you have Brexit Derangement Syndrome and what to do about it – Iain Martin for Reaction
  • Using Parliamentary privilege to fight the Brexit war is an abuse of power – Charles Moore for the Telegraph (£)
  • Remainers need an Anti-Mogg to rouse them – Matthew Parris for The Times (£)

News in Brief

  • Sir John Major attacks PM’s EU customs plans and wants Britain to stay in Customs Union – The Sun
  • Rebel remainer says Theresa May should sack Boris Johnson over disloyalty – The Sun
  • Resign now, Boris Johnson told in row over sabotaging Theresa May – The Times (£)
  • EU flag brigade fight them on the beaches – The Times (£)
  • Judges pitch for UK to cut ties with Franco-German ECJ – Express
  • How Italy could blow up Europe as we know it – Politico
  • Fruit and vegetable traders face market stall ban for refusing to take down their Vote Leave poster – Daily Mail
  • Matt Hancock: We’ll Be Staying in Eurovision – Guido Fawkes
  • SuRie interview: ‘Brexit won’t affect our Eurovision chances at all’ – Telegraph (£)