In a punchy intervention amid a Cabinet split over Britain’s post-Brexit customs arrangements, she restated her “mission” to take back control of our money, laws and borders when we leave the EU, insisting that we would “establish our own independent trade policy”.
Mrs May has repeatedly said the UK will leave the single market and customs union but her support for a so-called “new customs partnership” with Brussels has been criticised by Brexiteers, who say it keeps us too closely aligned with the bloc.
Her latest statement on the subject suggests she has softened her stance on the Eurosceptics’ preferred alternative “Max Fac” – short for maximum facilitation – which relies on new technology and trusted trader schemes to avoid a hard border with the EU in Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister said: “Amid all the noisy debate and technical discussions about our departure from the European Union, I want to take this opportunity to remind the British public of my mission in the negotiations.
“Brexit provides the opportunity to build a new relationship with the EU where we are close trading partners and strong allies but with the British Government in control of our laws, our immigration policy and how taxpayers’ money is spent.
“You can trust me to deliver.”
Vowing that Britain will take back control of our borders, she added: “The public want their own Government to decide on the number of people coming into Britain from across the EU and that is what we are going to do.”
Hailing the end of “vast contributions” to the EU budget, she said: “I will ensure that we take back control of our money. Brexit means there will be billions of pounds that we used to send to Brussels which we will now be able to spend on domestic priorities, including our National Health Service.”
While conceding that we may “sometimes choose to take the same approach as the EU” she insisted our laws “will be made in Westminster, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast, with those laws tried by British judges”.
A customs partnership with Brussels, which involves collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU, is opposed by a 6-5 majority of Mrs May’s Brexit “war cabinet”, which is due to meet again on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
Last night a report by Leave Means Leave in support of Max Fac said existing technology was “more than capable of permitting a friction-free border”.
Co-written by John Longworth, former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, and MEP David Campbell Bannerman, it found that 95 to 99 per cent of goods traded between developed countries avoid any physical inspection at all.
Most countries now permit traders to submit their customs documentation electronically.
“This means that most trade suffers little or no hold-up at the border when entering the EU. There is no reason for this to change after Brexit.”
The report calls for the border to become “less of a physical location and more of a digital record”.
Former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson said the report “shows a sensible technological solution can ensure continued cross-border co-operation and prosperity in the best interests of the whole British Isles.”
May 13th, 2018: Express