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Northern Ireland news

Brexit: Downing Street rules out customs union U-turn

British government justice secretary David Gauke MP talking to Nick Robinson on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show
Dan O'Donoghue

THE BRITISH government has insisted it will leave the customs union after Brexit as MPs prepare to debate the idea this week.

Following a defeat in the House of Lords and reports that a number of Tory MPs will vote in favour of membership in the Commons, the British prime minister and her team were reported to be having a rethink but a Downing Street source this morning rejected this claim.

The source told the BBC: "We will not be staying in the customs union or joining a customs union."

Weekend reports quoted a government aide saying Mrs May and her top team "will not be crying into our beer" if parliament forces the government's hand on the issue.

Such a U-turn would be popular with business leaders and go a long way to resolving Mrs May's difficulties in resolving the Irish border issue.

However, it would also be hugely controversial with senior members of the cabinet, with Downing Street now believing international trade secretary Liam Fox and foreign secretary Boris Johnson could both resign.

Justice secretary David Gauke yesterday said the government needs to make the case to MPs for leaving the customs union as part of Brexit.

He told the BBC: "The job of those of us in government is to persuade parliament that the route going forward, leaving the customs union, but ensuring that we don't put in place unnecessary barriers to our trade with the European Union."

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said remaining in a customs union "makes sense".

A Downing Street source said Mrs May would continue to argue for the UK to leave the customs union, adding: "Government policy hasn't changed – we are leaving the customs union."

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