Saturday 19 January 2019 10:12 am

Customs union compromise could open the door to renewed talks on Brexit, says commissioner


City A.M’s industry and manufacturing correspondent. You can follow me on @alexmdaniel, or email: alex.daniel@cityam.com

City A.M’s industry and manufacturing correspondent. You can follow me on @alexmdaniel, or email: alex.daniel@cityam.com

Britain could clear the way to reaching an agreement on the Brexit deal if it rows back on a commitment to leave the EU’s customs union, according to a senior commissioner within the bloc.

Prime Minister Theresa May is still in a stand-off with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, halting her last minute bid to reach a cross-party consensus on the terms of the deal after her own proposed agreement was resoundingly rejected by parliament in a vote on Tuesday night.

Read more: Boris Johnson says delaying Article 50 would erode trust in politicians

Irish politician Phil Hogan, the EU’s agriculture commissioner, wrote in Saturday’s Irish Independent newspaper the deadlock could be broken if the UK agreed to remain part of the customs union.

“More mainstream UK politicians need to drop the fanciful rhetoric and start speaking the plain, unvarnished truth,” wrote Hogan.

“If Mrs May rolled back on her red line of exiting the customs union, most of the outstanding obstacles to a deal would be swept away,” he said.

Read more: Brexit deal defeat triggers huge uncertainty: what next?

Downing Street maintained even after Tuesday’s vote that policy was to be outside any customs union, but EU officials have repeatedly said if Britain dropped this refusal the bloc would be willing to negotiate on key stumbling blocks like the Irish border.

Hogan, who has criticised Britain's approach throughout the negotiations, said facts remained thin on the ground in parliamentary debate in Westminster, adding that there was precious little time left to “sort out this mess.”

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