In a strongly-worded intervention, the leading Brexiteer said Theresa May’s apparent plan to keep the whole of the UK in a customs union was “an absolute stinker”.
Downing Street and Brussels have pushed back against reports that Ms May is close to a deal with the EU to create a customs agreement that would avoid the need for the Northern Ireland border “backstop” that has been at the heart of the impasse in negotiations.
The prime minister is due to brief her top team on Tuesday on the progress in the talks, as expectations rise that negotiators are pressing hard to seal a deal with Brussels this week, which would allow the EU to green light a special Brexit summit later this month.
Reports emerged over the weekend that the EU could contemplate concession to keep all of the UK in a temporary customs union and Ms May was hoping for the possibility of a Canada-style free trade deal sought by Brexiteers.
The ex-foreign secretary dismissed the plans ”a Christmas present of the finest old Brussels fudge” which left Britain forced to accept EU laws without shaping them.
“From social policy to the environment, from agriculture to industrial standards to immigration, when Brussels says ‘Jump’, the British answer will be ‘How high?”’ he wrote in The Sun.
“If this is indeed the deal that is to be placed before Cabinet on Tuesday, it is an absolute stinker. It means we are proposing to hand over an amazing £40bn for absolutely nothing in return.”
Mr Johnson dismissed suggestions that the arrangement would lead the way to a Canada-style trade deal, arguing that the joint UK/EU political declaration on the future relationship due to be released alongside the withdrawal agreement will be “worthless”.
“We are being asked to choose between the break-up of the Union – at least for economic purposes – or the subjugation of the whole country,” he said.
“We are choosing wholesale subjection. We need to stop before it is too late.”
He urged ministers to oppose the plans and said MPs would “throw this deal out” once they understand what was at stake.
In a sign of the nerves in the cabinet, Ms May reportedly held conference calls with members of her top team on Sunday to reassure them that she had not stuck a secret deal without their knowledge.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister is clear we are leaving the customs union.
“We are making good progress on the future relationship, and 95% of the withdrawal agreement has been settled. Negotiations are ongoing.”
However Steve Baker, a leading member of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers, told the Today programme that EU withdrawal must mean departure from the customs union “in a timely way”.
Mr Baker said: “If we are going to regulate our own economy, if we are going to have our own independent trade policy, if we are going to be a normal independent country – which is what I understood the referendum result to have decided – then we need to be out of the customs union and we need to get out of the customs union in a timely way.”
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