Brussels is pushing the virtues of a soft Brexit in order to entice Remainer MPs into a close post-divorce relationship. Senior figures across the bloc, including Michel Barnier, have made the push in recent days. Guy Verhofstadt, the EU Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, said: “There was almost a majority in favour of a customs union with the EU. What we expect is that a proposal could reach a majority around the customs union and then we are prepared, on the EU side, to to renegotiate the declaration and to include that customs union.”
He added: “If that political statement is adjusted, I think a majority can be found in the British House of Commons, because you will get cross-border cooperation between Labour and the Conservatives.
“That new political statement can then be approved at a European summit on April 10 and then we will give the British the opportunity to formalise it in English legislation by May 22.”
Nathalie Loiseau, Emmanuel Macron’s lead candidate for the upcoming European elections, claimed she will support a EU-UK customs union if MPs in London unite around the plan.
Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, made a similar pledge in a speech to students in Warsaw on Friday.
He said: “We are ready to be even more ambitious should the UK’s red lines evolve.
“For instance, we are open to work on the principle of a permanent customs union should the UK decide to take this path.”
An EU official said: “When you consider EU trade deals are mixed agreements, there are the member states’s views, the European commission, and the voice of the European Parliament. What can you do with a third country? Not much.”
While the concept of a customs union is hated by Brexiteers, EU diplomats and officials believe talks could be concluded quickly and prevent a long delay to the UK’s divorce.
Brussels sources claim a customs union could be implemented into the political declaration on the future trade and security partnership within days.
One diplomat said: “Full negotiation of a customs union would take much longer and legally speaking that comes after Brexit, so an agreement would have to be in be in the basic form.”
Another source claims the current Northern Irish backstop, which is based on a UK-wide customs union could be used as the template.
They said: “A UK-wide customs union is at heart of the backstop.
“We could just lift that out and add the ambitions that we have on either side to complete it.”
During the full trade talks, which will officially kickstart after Brexit, influential EU member states will push hard for Britain to align to the bloc’s rules and regulations.
Italy, France and the Netherlands will attempt to block the UK joining the EU’s common external tariff, through a customs union, unless Britain adopts state aid and other single market regulations.
Brussels is confident that partial single market alignment, which is set out in the backstop, will not be allowed as part of a future customs union arrangement.
MPs will once again vote on a number of alternative to Theresa May’s Brexit plan in a desperate bid to find a Commons majority.
Politicians will vote on, depending on the Speaker John Bercow’s choices, up to nine alternative Brexit options.
Included in the current list a second referendum, remaining in the EU’s customs union and the so-called ‘Common Market 2.0’ approach, which would see the UK remain in the single market with a complex customs arrangement.
Any of tonight’s winners could be pitched against the Prime Minister in a fourth vote on her Brexit deal tomorrow.
Downing Street will likely confirm its own plans after the indicative votes scheduled for around 8pm tonight.