United Kingdom seeks new Customs union after Brexit

Violet Powell
August 17, 2017

According to today's government paper, the United Kingdom could ask Brussels to establish a "temporary customs union" after it leaves the European Union in March 2019.

In a government document paper published on Wednesday, the British government said it wanted a seamless and "frictionless" frontier between Ireland and Northern Ireland without either a physical border or border checks.

With this proposal, Prime Minister Theresa May Cabinet also intends to 'protect the Common Travel Area (CTA),' a free transit agreement that allows residents from both nations to freely cross the common border without being controlled.

"As (EU chief negotiator) Michel Barnier himself has said, the solution can not be based on a precedent so we're looking forward to seeing the EU's position paper on Ireland".

Further, the British government has proposed new customs arrangements that would allow free flow of goods.

Verhofstadt - responsible for the European Parliament's Brexit approach - took to Twitter to criticise the plan. But during this period, it would also expect to be able to negotiate its own global trade deals, something it can not do as an EU customs union member. It announced the plans on Tuesday (August 15) in the first of a series of "future partnership papers".

The first choice would allow the Government to organise a new customs border with the European Union to reduce trade barriers.

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Stephen Gethins MP, the SNP's Europe spokesman, earlier told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "What we're calling for is for continued membership of the single market and the customs union".

European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier also repeated that talks on the future trading relationship could not begin until progress was made on other issues, including Britain's exit bill.

But there has also been speculation that the UK's determination to set its own trade rules would require customs checks at the border with the EU.

"To be in and out of the Customs Union & "invisible borders" is a fantasy".

The CBI's deputy director Josh Hardie said the government's proposal was "encouraging", but added: "The clock is ticking and what matters now is giving companies the confidence to continue investing as quickly as possible".

A Government source said: "Both sides need to show flexibility and imagination when it comes to the border issue in Northern Ireland and that is exactly what our latest position paper will do".

Britain outlined plans for a future customs agreement with the European Union yesterday and an interim deal to ease companies' Brexit concerns, proposals one senior European Union official described as "fantasy". It will also push for Britain to be able to begin negotiations with new trade partners, something that members of the customs union are not able to do.

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