Conservative party chairman says UK cannot stay in EU customs union

Brandon Lewis arrives in Downing Street, London, Britain, December 18, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain cannot stay in the current customs union with the European Union because striking international trade deals after Brexit is a priority, the chairman of Theresa May’s Conservative party said on Thursday.

Brandon Lewis said meetings would be held on Thursday between senior members of the government and colleagues across the House of Commons to try and find a compromise Brexit deal.

But he ruled out staying in the customs union, and a second referendum on leaving the EU.

“As a set of principles, one of the things we need to be able to do ... is the ability to do those international trade deals, to be able to trade globally around the world, and have an independent trade policy, that means we can’t stay in the current EU customs union,” he told BBC radio.

“There are a whole range of meetings today between senior ministers and colleagues around the House of Commons. We will listen to what people have to say.”

Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky