• Theresa May retains an “open mind” on the nature and depth of a future UK customs union with the EU, the prime minister’s office said today. Downing Street has said the UK will need to leave the bloc’s customs union and operate an independent trade policy — but it isn’t ruling out replicating many of its provisions under a new arrangement. (MLEX)
  • Theresa May’s Brexit advisers are secretly considering whether Britain could strike a customs union deal covering trade in goods with the EU, a move that would severely limit the UK’s ability to strike out on its own. Senior British officials argue that such a step would limit a loss of trade with Europe after Brexit, help address concerns about the north-south Irish border, and reduce the need for complex new customs procedures. The Financial Times has been told by three UK officials that the discussions are “live” in Whitehall. (The FT)
  • Two leading Conservative MPs have launched a bid to make Theresa May keep the UK in a customs union with the European Union, as the prime minister faces cabinet and party splits over the issue. Anna Soubry, a former business minister, and Ken Clarke, the former chancellor, said they would try to get cross-party support for keeping the UK’s current customs arrangements with the EU, in a clear challenge to May’s authority. (The Guardian)
  • UK construction activity stagnated during January, according to a survey of purchasing managers in the industry. The IHS Markit construction PMI, published on Friday, reported a much sharper drop in activity growth than analysts had expected. The PMI fell to 50.2 in January, compared with 52.2 in December. Analysts had expected a reading of 52 in January. Any PMI reading above 50 indicates expansion, anything below signals contraction. The construction industry struggled last year as a number of big commercial and infrastructure projects came to an end while relatively few were started. Builders said that Brexit-related uncertainty was partly to blame for the slowdown in new office building work.) (The FT)