Brexiteers hint at softening EU withdrawal stance

Duncan Smith says allowing EU officials at UK ports would address Border concerns

Iain Duncan Smith: We can conduct regulatory and customs checks together in a way that respects the EU’s single market. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Iain Duncan Smith: We can conduct regulatory and customs checks together in a way that respects the EU’s single market. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

Hardline Tory Brexiteers have signalled they are prepared to soften their stance on EU withdrawal to kill off Theresa May’s Chequers proposals.

Prominent anti-EU campaigners like Tory former leader Iain Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Sunday Telegraph they are ready to compromise in order to achieve a Canada-style free trade deal with Brussels.

Such a move would see them back proposals allowing EU officials to be stationed at UK ports after Brexit, and support the Government enforcing EU rules on goods exported to the bloc from UK firms, the newspaper said.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Duncan Smith said allowing EU officials at UK ports - as happens now with Eurotunnel - would answer concerns about the Irish Border.

He wrote: “We can . . . [conduct] regulatory and customs checks together in a way that respects the EU’s single market, by building on systems already in place at the Channel Ports.

“The UK has long had arrangements with France under the Le Touquet Treaty where passports are checked by French officers at Dover and UK officers in Calais.

“The UK should seek to build on this by agreeing a Le Touquet-plus system with the EU. Any customs or regulatory checks could be made at juxtaposed controls with information-sharing and cooperation between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

“This would not simply answer concerns about keeping the Northern Ireland Border open — it would also ensure the channel ports continue to provide as frictionless trade as possible.”

Hopes of a Brexit deal being done within weeks have risen after key EU leaders like European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and his European Council counterpart Donald Tusk expressed optimism that agreement could be reached.

The EU will reach a Brexit deal with Britain in November if it does not do so this month, Mr Juncker said in an interview published by Austrian newspapers on Saturday.

Mr Juncker said that the potential for a rapprochement between the two sides had grown in the last few days.

“We are not there yet. But our will to reach an understanding with the British government is unbroken,” he was quoted as saying by Der Standard and Kurier and Der Falter.

“We have to get away from this no-deal scenario. It wouldn’t be good for Britain or for the rest of the [European] Union.”