UK suggests 'temporary customs union' with EU, new trade deals post-Brexit

The UK sets out the ‘ambitious new customs arrangement’ it wants to secure with the EU after Brexit

15 August 2017, 9:20am
The EU has made it clear on several occasions it will not discuss future trade relations with Britain until significant progress has been made on issues like the rights of citizens and the money the UK must pay in financial obligations
The EU has made it clear on several occasions it will not discuss future trade relations with Britain until significant progress has been made on issues like the rights of citizens and the money the UK must pay in financial obligations
The UK government will today confirm it wants to negotiate a transitional customs arrangement to take effect after Britain leaves the European Union, in the first of many official position papers to be published over the next few months.

The paper is expected to express the government's desire to negotiate a bespoke, time-limited customs arrangement, designed to protect British business from the effects of a "cliff-edge" Brexit.

According to excerpts of the document setting out Britain's strategy, the government will say one option to minimise friction when it leaves the bloc in March 2019 would be to introduce a temporary customs union which should be "time-limited".

Ministers said the plans would mean the "freest and most frictionless possible trade" with the rest of Europe and would provide certainty for businesses, as the British government aims to address a main concern of companies who fear the introduction of customs checks will cause expensive delays.

The government also wants to be able to negotiate trade deals with countries around the world during this proposed transitional period. Full custom union members are prohibited from doing trade deals with countries outside the EU.

The EU has made it clear on several occasions it will not discuss future trade relations with Britain until significant progress has been made on issues like the rights of citizens and the money the UK must pay in financial obligations, or the divorce bill as it has become known.

However, the feeling within government is British negotiators will struggle to make progress when talks resume later this month unless the British side has a clear understanding of what it wants post-Brexit trade relations to look like.

Businesses welcomed the proposals, but the Confederation of British Industry also warned the government that "the clock is ticking and what matters now if giving companies the confidence to continue investing as quickly as possible".

The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) is expected to release the papers at around midday on Tuesday. It will be the clearest insight yet into the details of what Prime Minister Theresa May, Brexit Secretary David Davis, and the rest of the Cabinet hope to achieve in divorce talks with the EU.

On Wednesday, the government will set out its solutions for the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.