Theresa May will be able to persuade her Cabinet to support her preferred Brexit deal – but only after more of her ministers resign, according to a government source.
ITV’s political editor Robert Peston reports that a government official predicted the Prime Minister would be able to win over her cabinet this week, ‘but not without saying goodbye to some colleagues’.
Boris Johnson and David Davis both resigned from the cabinet in July in protest against her Brexit strategy.
Another government figure speculated that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab could resign over the issue of the Irish backstop.
Mrs May will meet with her cabinet tomorrow to brief ministers on the status of Brexit negotiations, and to persuade them to rally round her solution to the Irish border issue.
The EU agreed to a compromise on the backstop agreement to keep the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland last week, signalling they would accept keeping the whole of the UK in a customs union until both sides sign up to a deal that would prevent the need for a hard border.
But ministers are now insisting that the backstop agreement must contain a mechanism for the UK to terminate the backstop without the agreement of the EU.
Mr Raab stoked tensions again by insisting the UK must be able to pull out of the backstop after three months, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney responded by insisting that the EU would never sign up to a backstop deal that gave the UK the ability to pull out any time it chose.
The Irish position remains consistent and v clear that a “time-limited backstop” or a backstop that could be ended by UK unilaterally would never be agreed to by IRE or EU. These ideas are not backstops at all + don’t deliver on previous UK commitments #Brexit pic.twitter.com/y7AQ8V1jMo
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) November 5, 2018
Brexiteers insist that the UK must be able to unilaterally end the backstop to avoid the possibility of the EU keeping Britain bound to its rules forever. The UK cannot negotiate its own trade agreement while it is signed up the the customs union.
Therefore in order to get the current iteration of the backstop through cabinet, the PM must persuade ministers that the EU has no intention to trap the UK in a customs union in perpetuity.
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, a leading member of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Conservatives, told the Today programme that EU withdrawal must mean departure from the customs union “in a timely way”.
Mr Baker said: “If we are going to regulate our own economy, if we are going to have our own independent trade policy, if we are going to be a normal independent country – which is what I understood the referendum result to have decided – then we need to be out of the customs union and we need to get out of the customs union in a timely way.”