May founders amid Tory trade divisions 

May founders amid Tory trade divisions 

UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit “war” cabinet is preparing to meet again, with ministers pessimistic about breaking the customs deadlock after staunch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said his allies would not back down.

May confronted Rees-Mogg at a meeting with fellow Conservative MPs designed to break the deadlock over the customs arrangements, The Times reported. 

The pair reportedly clashed over the impact of rival plans on the Irish border, in what witnesses described as May “sending a tough signal” to Brexiteers that she was not prepared to jeopardise the union with Northern Ireland. 

Sinn Fein’s leader Michelle O’Neill on Tuesday said May must call a border poll if reports of the prime minister’s doubts Northern Ireland would remain in the UK after a referendum were accurate.

She said May had “no right to deny the people of Ireland the democratic entitlement to decide their own constitutional future”.

May apparently said she was not confident of victory in an Irish border poll.

O’Neill said: “Theresa May is conceding that the Good Friday Agreement threshold for triggering a unity poll has been met but that she isn’t prepared to allow the people of Ireland, north and south, to exercise their democratic right.

“Sinn Fein has raised the need for a unity referendum with the British government on numerous occasions over recent years, particularly in the wake of the Brexit vote.

“On each occasion, they have stated that they do not believe the threshold has been met but have repeatedly refused to clarify what criteria they use to reach this conclusion.”

The appeal came after May went over the heads of her divided cabinet with a personal appeal to backbench Tory MPs to help to settle Britain’s position. She issued an open invitation to all 315 Conservative MPs to attend Downing Street briefings on the rival options that have split her “war” team.

Rees-Mogg, who heads the anti-European European Research Group of pro-leave Conservative MPs, said he would not adopt a more compromising position. “If we were to do so it would completely undermine the heart of why we voted to leave, rendering our almost-reclaimed sovereignty a myth,” Rees-Mogg said.

He demanded May walk away from talks with Brussels if Britain’s offers were rejected by the European Commission. “The UK will simply have to leave with no deal because the referendum result must be upheld,” the far-right politician said. “Democracy is the backbone of established political societies, it fosters stability and fairness and cannot be treated so disdainfully.”

He wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the embattled May “ought not to take Brussels too seriously about the Irish question” when looking for a customs deal.

“The commission hides behind faux concern for the Irish border undermining the single market … We will not impose a border. If there is a deal to be done about the border it will be precisely that: a deal. Nonetheless, if one side keeps refusing to bargain, no deal will be struck.”

 

Pro-EU protesters in London last year. Picture credit: Eurasia Times 

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