Another important intervention from Nick Timothy in the Telegraph today, who directly advises his old boss to drop her customs partnership and back the Brexiters’ Max Fac option. Last week Timothy savaged the NCP, today he makes the case for Max Fac and tells Number 10 to “get on with it”. Theresa May still listens to her former chief of staff, it is also significant that Max Fac is being pushed by someone in the PM’s trusted inner circle, not just Cabinet Brexiters and the ERG. Timothy says Max Fac:
“…can be made efficient by sensible policy and technology, and the costs can be offset by the opportunities provided by trade deals with the world’s fastest growing economies…
Downing Street’s reluctance to choose “max fac” is driven by concern about the Northern Irish border. But “max fac” does not demand a hard border. Checks do not need to be conducted along the border: the administration can be done in advance through pre-registration and trusted trader schemes, and monitoring can be conducted in each country. Small businesses can be exempted, more powers devolved to Belfast, and more all-Ireland governance arrangements can be agreed to facilitate trade.
The Commission says this is impossible, but their negotiating stance is hardly surprising when they believe Parliament might force the Government into a customs union. And whatever Barnier says, “max fac” would be no anomalous lacuna in the EU’s border. Two years ago, more than a million migrants simply walked into Europe. And as anybody who has driven into France from Switzerland knows, there are no checks along whole sections of the EU border.
The EU is ignoring its own negotiating guidelines. They say “the unique challenges of Ireland will require flexible and imaginative solutions”. The responsibility to find these solutions is not only British but European too.
If there is a compromise to be made, ministers might accept that “max fac” will take longer to be introduced than the current implementation timetable suggests. But to get its way with Brussels, and to convince Parliament that there is an alternative to a customs union, the Government needs to get on with it, choose “max fac” – and start making its case.”
The crunch meeting is now on Tuesday next week. If Timothy was still in Downing Street May would be backing Max Fac, instead she has been captured by Remainers. Five days to see sense…