Labour Calls Vote to Get Cabinet to Reveal Brexit Customs Papers

(Bloomberg) -- The main U.K. opposition party wants to try and force Prime Minister Theresa May to reveal the details of the two customs options her inner Brexit circle is fighting over.

How? By deploying a parliamentary device rarely used until recently. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party announced it will force a binding vote on Wednesday in the House of Commons -- the same procedure it used to get the government to hand over Brexit economic assessments. It will seek to extract the details by asking Parliament for a “humble address" to be made to Queen Elizabeth II.

The announcement comes as May’s inner Brexit cabinet is locked in an ongoing fight over the U.K.’s future trading relationship with the European Union, specifically what kind of customs arrangements it will pursue.

If successful, Labour’s attempt to find out more about what is going on behind the scenes could reveal key intelligence on what May’s government has in mind to pitch to Brussels. Corbyn is able to use this device because May doesn’t have a majority and some of her lawmakers have rebelled on Brexit in the past.

Her Cabinet is debating rival proposals for how customs might function after Brexit. There is the option favored by May and those in the pro-EU camp, which would see the U.K. collecting EU tariffs and reimbursing businesses if U.K. tariffs are lower. It’s an untested system and would maintain closer ties to the EU. That is why the Brexit enthusiasts dislike it.

The pro-Brexit camp -- which has the slight edge in the 11-person “war cabinet” -- would set up a looser relationship and use technology to minimize disruption and border checks. The problem there is that this technology could take years to develop.

May has split these 11 Cabinet ministers into two working groups in a bid to end the deadlock. They met on Tuesday, but May’s spokesman has cautioned against expecting an imminent breakthrough.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.