Government calls in the lawyers to check if two customs options are legal

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Minister admits lawyers are examining the two customs partnership options (Source: Getty)

Cabinet office minister David Lidington admitted this morning that the government had asked lawyers to look at the two post-Brexit customs options to check if they are legal.

The cabinet is currently divided over two future customs options – the customs partnership model, which would see the UK collect taxes on behalf of the EU or the so-called “maximum facilitation” - or "max fac" option which would use technology to police the border.

Read more: Cutting through the customs union noise: What's being debated today?

Prime Minister Theresa May trailed the customs partnership option in her Mansion House speech and it is believe to be her preferred option, while leading Brexiteers have thrown their weight behind the “max fac” model.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning Lidington said: “Where we are is when we had an initial talk about this at the cabinet committee, there was some serious criticism made about the technical detail of both the models that were on the table.”

Read more: Jeremy Hunt warns Boris Johnson over undermining Brexit negotiations

Lidington said that the cabinet had been split into working parties to examine the two options in greater detail.

“The Prime Minister has asked smaller groups of ministers to go away and test out over the next days and week or so those detailed questions - so for example on the new customs partnership idea the questions are around to what extent does this inhibit an independent trade policy for the future and can we mitigate those impacts?”

Lawyers are set to examine both models for potential illegality although Lidington was keen to stress this was a standard part of launching any new policy.

“This is what always happens when you talk about a treaty. You check is this compatible with other treaties to which you are party, or the countries you are negotiating with are party.

“This is not something that is special here - this is a normal part of everyday government business,” he said.

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