Tory MPs Block Release Of Official Advice On Brexit Customs Arrangements

Owen Bennett

The Government has blocked an attempt to get details of its plans for the UK’s post-Brexit customs deal released to Parliament.

Labour tried to use an obscure piece of Parliamentary procedure to access papers being looked at by Cabinet Ministers, as they weigh up which of two customs models the UK should adopt after leaving the EU.

MPs voted 301 to 269 against the documents being released, a majority of 32.

The ‘humble address’ procedure was successfully used by Labour in November last year to secure the release of the Government’s Brexit studies on the economy after the Tories dodged taking part in a vote.

But in a change in tactics, the Government is now ordering its MPs to vote down the use of the ‘humble address’ – and earlier this month blocked an attempt to get papers relating to the Windrush scandal released.

Explainer: All You Need To Know About The Customs Union Row

While the Government is refusing to release the advice being shown in ministers, it has committed to producing a detailed document on its plans for the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

According to Downing Street, Brexit Secretary David Davis told a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday the white paper will “communicate our ambition for the UK’s future relationship with the EU, in the context of our vision for the UK’s future role in the world.”

He added: “It is an opportunity to set out clearly to both a domestic and an EU audience the reasoning behind our approach, including where we think it is clearly in the EU’s interests as well as our own.”

The white paper is due to be released before the next EU summit, scheduled for the 28th June.

Theresa May is under increasing pressure to break a Cabinet impasse on the UK’s future customs arrangement with the EU.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley underlined Cabinet divisions over the issue on Wednesday, declaring that May’s preferred option of a ‘customs partnership’ was an “easier” way of solving border problems than the Brexiteers’ plan – known as ‘maximum facilitation’ or ‘max fac’.

Speaking to Ireland’s Parliament on Wednesday, PM Leo Varadkar dismissed ‘max fac’ in withering terms.

He said: “I believe the customs partnership is closer to being made workable than the maximum-facilitation proposal or max-fac which ... I had thought was some form of make-up or deodorant.

“I have certainly not seen to date any detail that indicates that such a solution would be as functional as make-up or a deodorant.

“We are not drawing up any plan for a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, full stop. There is not going to be one.”

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