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Theresa May told ministers to get 'hands on' over customs dispute

14 May 2018

When asked on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show if he agreed with Johnson that the model is "crazy", Gove replied: "With the new customs partnership - Boris pointed out that because it's novel, because no model like this exists, there have to be significant questions marks over the deliverability of it on time".

But the prime minister insisted: "You can trust me to deliver", as she attempted to ease the tensions.

Labour MP Rupa Huq, a supporter of the People's Vote campaign for a second European Union referendum, said: "Boris Johnson's description of Theresa May's preferred option of a "customs partnership" as a "crazy system" is typically intemperate but rooted in truth".

The Commons debates, when they come, are likely to expose her predicament even further - she's stuck between a likely majority for a customs union, and the more than 60 lawmakers in her Conservative Party threatening to derail her government if she goes for one.

The Brexit Secretary is to lead a new Cabinet group created to break the deadlock over future customs arrangements with the EU.

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Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a leading pro-Brexit campaigner, said her customs partnership idea had "flaws", though he also acknowledged that neither plan was ideal.

Its supporters believe it would resolve the Northern Ireland border issue and minimise disruption for business.

May last week ordered her ministers to take responsibility for resolving the Brexit customs dilemma themselves, splitting her inner Brexit Cabinet into two working groups to iron out their differences.

The EU has expressed doubts about whether either option would work.

One will consider the Brexiteers' favoured "maximum facilitation" - or "max fac" - solution, based on the use of technology to minimise the need for customs checks once the United Kingdom is outside the EU. YouGov interviewed 1,648 adults on Tuesday and Wednesday for the Times.

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The minister added: "I believe the crucial factor is to fulfill that deadline".

He will now be asked to work with Mr Davis to address his concerns that even streamlined customs checks could cost jobs in sectors such as the auto industry, where parts criss-cross the Channel multiple times. A second plan, known as "maximum facilitation" or Max Fac, would set up a looser relationship between the two trading partners and use technology to minimize disruption and border checks.

The central role for Mr Davis reflects fears in government that he could quit if the customs partnership idea is pushed through. But there is a recognition that if she pursued a policy that meant losing her Brexit Secretary then that would be pretty existential for her'.

Ministers face a challenge in overturning 14 amendments imposed by pro-Remain peers in the Lords, including measures to keep Britain in the European Union single market.

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Theresa May told ministers to get 'hands on' over customs dispute