Amber Rudd faces new pressure as she undermines Theresa May
Amber Rudd faces new pressure as she undermines Theresa May by saying Britain can stay in custom unions with EU
- Home Secretary Amber Rudd was target of Eurosceptic backlash last night
- She suggested that Britain could stay in a customs union with the EU
- It undermined Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge to make a clean break
Amber Rudd was the target of a Eurosceptic backlash last night after suggesting Britain could stay in a customs union with the EU.
The Home Secretary dealt her political career a further blow by undermining Theresa May’s pledge to make a clean break with the EU.
Miss Rudd had already faced renewed calls to resign over the Windrush scandal after telling MPs she had been wrong to deny the Home Office pursues targets for removing illegal migrants.
In the Commons, Tory MPs rallied behind the Home Secretary in a bid to deny Labour a scalp and protect the Prime Minister from direct criticism.
Amber Rudd was the target of a Eurosceptic backlash last night after suggesting Britain could stay in a customs union with the EU
The Home Secretary said that ‘unfortunately’ she was not aware of the policy and will be looking at it again
But hours later, Miss Rudd opened up a second front in the crisis by suggesting the Government had not yet decided whether to make a clean break with the EU. Her comments came at a lunch in Westminster at which she:
- Revealed that controversial internal performance targets for removing illegal migrants would be axed;
- Questioned the Government’s approach to tackling illegal immigration, saying: ‘I don’t like the phrase hostile environment’;
- Refused to endorse Mrs May’s flagship target for slashing net migration to the tens of thousands;
- Admitted that her leadership hopes had been dented, saying: ‘I’m just thinking about staying in the game’;
- Acknowledged that the Government’s handling of the Windrush affair had been a ‘fiasco’, but refused to say if she had considered resigning;
- Insisted she would act to tackle knife crime, after figures showed offences surged 22 per cent last year.
Miss Rudd was a leading figure in the Remain campaign and is a member of Mrs May’s 11-strong Brexit ‘war cabinet’.
Asked if Britain was likely to leave the customs union, she replied: ‘I am not going to be drawn on that.
‘We still have a few discussions to be had in a really positive, consensual, easy way amongst some of my Cabinet colleagues in order to arrive at a final position.’
Her comments appeared to contradict Mrs May’s pledge – repeated on Wednesday – that Britain will leave the customs union after Brexit.
Eurosceptic Tories reacted angrily to Miss Rudd’s comments.
Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street today) tonight warned the FA to think of England fans before committing to selling off Wembley Stadium
MP Peter Bone said he ‘could not understand’ why she did not support government policy. He added: ‘We cannot have a home secretary not supporting this key plank of Brexit.’
Former Cabinet minister John Redwood said: ‘She is wrong. The Government has a final position on the customs union, which is that we will be leaving when we leave the EU.’ Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Government’s commitment to leave the customs union was in the Tory manifesto, adding: ‘The Home Secretary is bound by collective responsibility.’
A former cabinet minister said: ‘That is a very stupid thing to say. She is already under pressure over her own conduct at the Home Office – she cannot afford to put herself at odds with the PM and the bulk of the Parliamentary party.’
Miss Rudd later put out a partial clarification, saying she ‘should have been clearer’ that the UK would leave the customs union.
But she left the door open to forming a new customs union with Brussels, a move that would end the dream of signing new trade deals around the world.
In the Commons yesterday, Miss Rudd faced fresh Labour calls to resign over her handling of the Windrush scandal.
But Eurosceptic Philip Davies urged her not to be ‘knocked off course’ on the need to tackle illegal immigration, saying: ‘Most people in the real world, outside of the Labour party … believe that the Government does not do enough to remove illegal immigrants from this country.’
- Brexit will allow Britain to build ‘new and expanded economic links’ with fast-growing countries in the Asia-Pacific, John Howard, Australia’s prime minister from 1996 to 2007, said yesterday.
Remainers’ customs revolt is damp squib
Remainers ducked a Commons vote on whether Britain should stay in a customs union with the European Union yesterday.
Ten select committee chairmen had called a debate on a motion demanding the Government secure ‘an effective customs union’ between Britain and the EU.
But the pro-Remain MPs did not force the issue to a vote after hardly any pro-Brexit MPs turned up.
During the debate former education secretary Nicky Morgan warned that the Conservative Party would ‘not be forgiven for a generation’ if it ignores the ‘evidence for peace’ in Northern Ireland and pushes ahead with leaving the customs union.
Former chancellor Ken Clarke also argued to stay in the customs union, saying it would be ‘grossly irresponsible’ to create a hard border in Ireland.
But Labour Brexiteer Kate Hoey warned that divisions over customs would play into the hands of EU negotiators, while Conservative MP Matt Warman told Tory MPs they must respect the referendum result and pursue a ‘clean break’.
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