London : The UK will not accept a Brexit deal that involves being indefinitely locked into a customs union with the EU, Dominic Raab has said.
Britain’s Brexit Secretary said a provision on a customs union which was not “finite” would fail to deliver the result of the 2016 referendum.
Downing Street has insisted that Prime Minister Theresa May would never agree a Brexit deal with the European Union which “traps” the UK permanently in a customs union.
The pledge came amid speculation over possible ministerial resignations if Mrs May gives too much ground ahead of a crunch Brussels summit next week.
European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said “it does appear possible there will be a breakthrough” at the 17-18 October summit, fuelling speculation a deal is near on a so-called “backstop” for the Irish border.
It is understood that a number of ministers voiced concern at a meeting with Mrs May yesterday that any such backstop could leave the UK in an open-ended customs union, preventing it from seeking trade deals elsewhere in the world.
Mr Raab said: “It would have to be finite, it would have to be short and it would have to be, I think, time-limited in order for it to be supported here.
“What we cannot do is see the UK locked in via the backdoor to a customs union arrangement which would leave us in an indefinite limbo. That would not be leaving the EU.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond became the first senior British government figure to suggest that the backstop – designed to keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic open in the case that no broader EU/UK trade deal is finalised will “probably” have to come into effect for a period.