HMRC Under “Political Instruction” Not to Discuss Customs

May’s survival in the vote last night has not changed her fundamental predicament that there is no Parliamentary majority for her deal in its current form. May’s civil servants should be paying attention to an alternative proposal published yesterday with the support of Arlene Foster and her two former Brexit Secretaries, which proposes sensible limited amendments to the Withdrawal Agreemnt and a legally operable alternative text to the backstop. No unicorns, just concrete proposals.

Nor have the proposals come out of nowhere, the report was written specifically in response to the meeting in October between Michael Barnier and two of the reports’ co-authors, Shanker Singham and Hans Maessen, alongside senior Tory MPs.

Maessen, a Dutch customs expert, recently told a Parliamentary committee that HMRC have been refusing to engage in any discussions on customs, going as far as to claim that HMRC were “not allowed” to do so due to a “political instruction” following the Chequers agreement to pursue the ‘Facilitated Customs Arrangement’ instead. A customs union in all but name…

Money was put aside for the UK to make preparations for leaving the Customs Union by the Chancellor over a year ago, yet Guido understands that senior figures in the Treasury and the Cabinet Office are still putting the brakes on it being spent. May is going to have seriously review her civil servants’ “political instructions” if she is going to find a way out of her mess…

UPDATE: A government source disputes the idea that the Treasury has been blocking no deal preparations, saying: “We’ve given them £260m from EU exit funding for 18/19 and they’ve spent about 40pc. Somewhat improvement from their paltry 1/5th which Jon Thompson was open about in October. They have the full amount and they’ll get their 19/20 allocation soon too. No-one is stopping them from spending the money – entirely up to them.”

UPDATE II: One DIT source has dismissed Maessen’s suggestion that they are under instructions not to discuss customs as “odd” and “absolute nonsense”.


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Quote of the Day

John Bercow finally makes his view on Brexit known.

“Brexit is the biggest mistake of this country after the war. I respect PM Johnson but Brexit doesn’t help us. It’s better to be part of the [EU] power bloc.”

What a surprise…

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