Senior Conservative Brexiteers deliver customs 'ultimatum' to Theresa May

Oliver Robbins permanent secretary of the Department for Exiting the European Union  Image Cabinet Office

Senior politicians have handed Mrs May a so-called "ultimatum" demanding she abandons the idea of the United Kingdom entering a "customs partnership" ahead of a meeting of her Brexit war cabinet.

The new Home Secretary has rejected Theresa May's plans for a customs partnership with the European Union just three days into the job, leaving Eurosceptics increasingly confident that they have killed off the plans.

Cabinet divisions over Brexit were laid bare as Theresa May's blueprint for Britain's future trading relationship with the European Union was rejected by senior ministers.

"There are a number of ways in which that can be delivered".

The group says it would make meaningful trade deals "impossible".

May hinted that she was preparing to change tack at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons shortly before the sub-committee met.

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Worldwide trade secretary Liam Fox has hinted he could quit if Mrs May tries to keep Britain in a customs union. Ministers opposed to a hard Brexit, including chancellor Philip Hammond and business secretary Greg Clark, spoke in favour of it.

The intervention of Mr Javid, who backed Remain during the European Union referendum, bolstered the case of eurosceptics in the Cabinet who believe that the plan is "bonkers" and will lead to a significant climbdown over Brexit.

The unknown quantity in the room was Sajid Javid.

May has insisted that no British prime minister could accept such a scenario.

A Brexit "war cabinet" will see Mrs May try to convince Brexiteers of the merits of the plan.

Others present disputed that anything had been that final.

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Her spokesman added: "Work has been ongoing on two options". While there are practical concerns about how the "New customs partnership" would work, the "Maximum facilitation" plan backed by Johnson and Davis would, as it stands, not solve the Irish border issue. One UK official said they believed the European Union would want to see something before the end of next week. With Gavin Williamson also backing Fox et at, the 11-strong Brexit war cabinet was divided 6 to 5 against the prime minister's plan.

This calculation is far from straightforward, with rebels on both wings of the party.

"It is more of a statement of our position, with supporting arguments", a member of the ERG said, denying it was an ultimatum to the prime minister or an attempt to undermine her.

One area of consensus was that the United Kingdom must not remain in a customs union with the EU - despite growing parliamentary pressure from the Labour Party, the House of Lords, and the small but significant band of rebel Conservative MPs who favor a softer Brexit.

No date has been set for the next meeting, but according to her officials, May understands the urgency.

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