Monday 21 October 2019 10:22 am

Brexit latest: Minister hits out at customs union as DUP backs off

Any attempt to tweak Boris Johnson’s deal to include remaining in the customs union would be “procedural tricks” aimed at blocking Brexit, a minister at the Treasury has said.

Speaking to the Today programme this morning, Rishi Sunak said anyone wanting to “amend legislation are ultimately wanting to frustrate, delay or cancel Brexit altogether, and we should be clear about that.”

Sunak, chief secretary to the Treasury, added: “We have a deal that has been negotiated with the EU, that they themselves are happy with, and now want to get on with.

“I think everyone will look at that and think, this isn’t the time for more games in parliament, more amendments, more procedural tricks, which are just covers for trying to frustrate Brexit altogether.”

He also urged speaker John Bercow to grant a second meaningful vote today, despite MPs backing the Letwin amendment on Saturday, saying it would be “slightly odd” if he did not.

The Letwin amendment, which won with a majority of 16 votes, meant the Prime Minister could not satisfy the Benn Act and was forced to write to European Council president Donald Tusk seeking an extension to Article 50.

However he did not sign the letter, and sent a parallel note saying it was not in the UK’s interests to delay.

Tusk has not yet responded beyond confirming he has received the letter.

The government is still hoping it will be able to leave the EU on 31 October, and will bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) as early as today, in the hope of fast-tracking the process.

However it is widely expected that two amendments will be brought forward, one for a second referendum and one to consider staying within the whole of the UK to stay within EU’s customs union – a red line for many Brexiters.

Although the second referendum is not thought to have a majority in the Commons, the DUP may back it as further punishment for the government having pressed ahead with a deal that they argue creates a border in the Irish Sea.

Jim Shannon this morning told Sky his party would not support an amendment that would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU.

“We are clear where we stand on the customs union, it’s something we cannot support,” he said.

Labour’s Hilary Benn told BBC Breakfast there would likely be an amendment “seeking to put this whole deal back to the British people”, and another saying “we should remain in the customs union”.

Main image: Getty