LONDON (Reuters) – A dispute over Britain's future tariff agreements with the European Union has perpetuated the opposing Brexit camps more deeply than ever before, and Prime Minister Theresa May faces one of her toughest decisions.
Under pressure from the EU to spur discussions In a future partnership, May must agree on a tariff proposal to unite, or at least not tear apart, her government, her party, and a party that can be passed by parliament.
She even split her cabinet into two camps to work on improving the two proposals now offered to try to make one of them more palatable to the belligerent factions.
There is little time. The EU expects that it has made progress at a summit in June and both sides want to reach an agreement by October. Decisive laws must also be passed by Parliament before Britain leaves the EU in March next year.
"We need to get to a position that represents what people have voted for, and then you deliver it," a senior source in the ruling Conservative Party said in May.
"It is time now, carry on."
The battle is the latest in a long series of conflicts not only in its own party, but also in Britain's upper and lower houses of parliament and in one The bloc was led by the bloc in 2016.
Pro-EU activists, supported by government defeats in the Lords' House of Lords, are stepping up their demands for Britain to stay as close to the bloc as possible. Brexit followers seek to ensure that May keeps their word for a clean break so that Britain can regain "control" over its laws, money and limitations.
So far, May has little option and no desire to do anything else but stick to its worn-out script that Britain will leave the EU's Single Market and Customs Union. The opposition Labor Party is happy to leave it to her.
But over time, the decisions that have been made become more and more urgent as EU negotiators await Britain's detailed position not only on customs, but also on the wider trade agreement and governance.
She is under increasing pressure to make a decision.
MAX FAC OR PARTNERSHIP?
Some say that May prefers a customs partnership. Under this proposal, the United Kingdom would impose duties on goods imported into the country on behalf of the EU.
The second is for a streamlined customs regime, which is now known as "max fac" – maximum relief. According to this proposal, traders who are on an approved list or "trusted traders" could cross borders across borders with the help of automated technologies.
The proposals have shared the May Cabinet of top ministers and their party in the middle.
Those who want the EU to have the closest ties to the EU, including Secretary of the Economy Greg Clark, who said that hundreds of jobs in car manufacturing could be vulnerable if Britain could not freely trade with the EU.
But the partnership is anathema to Brexit activists, who say that Britain would remain essentially within the EU Customs Union. May's Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, called it "crazy."
They support the Max-fac option that critics say could take years.
It has tasked officials to work more on both options and split some ministers into two teams to brainstorm solutions to overcome the obstacles.
"This is prioritized," said May's spokesman.
But the missing decision coincided with growing demands that Britain should remain in the Customs Union with the EU. A move that advocates say could solve the problem of a new hard border with Ireland's violence sectarian violence.
Over the past three weeks, the House of Lords has sent a clear message to the European Parliament on the EU's exit law, calling into question its refusal to stay in the Customs Union and its plan to leave the EU single market.
And some EU Labor and Conservative Legislators in the House of Commons hope they can muster enough support to prevent the government reversing these amendments in lower house votes, though their ability to do so is dubious.
"Parliament finally takes control of Brexit and faces a minority of ideologically motivated, hardened Brexitians," said Conservative MP Anna Soubry on Twitter this week.
If the rebels had any chance of forcing Mays hand, the Labor Party would withdraw to stay in the Customs Union and the Internal Market. This means that they have to change their position and accept the continued freedom of movement of the people.
Labor wants a new customs union that would allow Britain to break away from EU state aid rules.
The pressure is rising for Labor to change its position.
"Our region is an export power," wrote five Labor MPs from northern England this week.
"All this could be jeopardized if we abandon the EU Customs Union and the Single Market and face new tariff barriers, fees and unnecessary administrative burdens."