Tory civil war over EU customs partnership 'could bring down Theresa May'

On the brink – Theresa May risks her own downfall if she pushes ahead with plans for an EU customs partnership (Picture: Reuters)

The Tory party is on the brink of a ‘civil war’ over the controversial EU customs partnership, with some warning that it could lead to Theresa May’s downfall.

The issue of a new customers partnership with the EU, rejected last week by the Prime Minister’s Brexit ‘war cabinet’ is continuing to divide the party.

Mrs May is believed to want to push ahead with the plan that would see Britain collect tariffs on the EU’s behalf at ports and airports, passing on a share of the cash to Brussels.

The prime minister was expected to try to revisit a ‘tweaked’ version of the plan at another meeting on Thursday but it will now not be discussed until next week, The Times reported.

But it has been reported that if Mrs May pushes ahead, Brexit Secretary David Davis is likely to resign, sparking a flurry of resignations and a potential vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister.

Resignation – Brexit Secretary David Davis is reportedly likely to resign if Theresa May pushes ahead with the customs partnership plan (Picture: Reuters)

A senior Tory MP told the Daily Express: “That threat [of a vote of confidence] has not gone away. This could be the end of Theresa May.

“She may not realise it but we are on the brink here. She needs to listen to her parties and her Cabinet who have given a very strong message on this issue.”


Tory MP Bernard Jenkin told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Mrs May was trying to bring the party together around the “compromise proposal” but he thought she would have to drop it.

“I think the prime minister is very anxious to try to bring the whole party together around some kind of compromise proposal and the argument is going on about this,” he said. “I think in the end she will have to drop it because it will prove unworkable.”

‘Crazy’ – Boris Johnson reportedly dubbed the plan crazy (Picture: Reuters)

He said he thought it was an “act of self-deception” to say Britain is leaving the customs union while still applying a common external tariff to all imports coming in from the EU.

His comments come after Foreign secretary Boris Johnson branded the idea “crazy”, saying it would create “a whole new web of bureaucracy”.

Writing in the Daily Mail, he said: “If you have the new customs partnership, you have a crazy system whereby you end up collecting the tariffs on behalf of the EU at the UK frontier.

“If the EU decides to impose punitive tariffs on something the UK wants to bring in cheaply there’s nothing you can do.

“That’s not taking back control of your trade policy, it’s not taking back control of your laws, it’s not taking back control of your borders and it’s actually not taking back control of your money either, because tariffs would get paid centrally back to Brussels.”

In a statement, Downing Street said: “There are two customs models that were first put forward by the government last August, and most recently they were outlined in the prime minister’s Mansion House speech which the entire cabinet was signed up to.

“Following last week’s cabinet sub committee meeting, it was agreed that there are unresolved issues in relation to both models and that further work is needed. The prime minister asked officials to take forward that work as a priority.”