UK government insists on leaving customs union

The British government said it was committed to leaving the EU's custom union, ahead of a vote on the issue this week 

The British government has restated its commitment to leaving the EU’s custom union, ahead of a symbolic vote on the issue this week.

Last Wednesday, the government suffered defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords, when they voted in favour of staying in the customs union. As a result, MPs will get a chance to debate the proposal on Thursday.

Labour has called for the UK to join a new customs union post-Brexit, saying it would leave the current one but negotiate a treaty afterwards that would "do the work of the customs union".

The former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, who chairs the Treasury committee, said party rebels should be careful what they wished for.

“This sabre-rattling is not coming from the section of the party that I represent. It is coming from the pro-Brexit section of the party and is deeply unhelpful,” she

said.

A customs union is when countries agree to apply the same taxes on imports to goods from outside the union. This means when goods have cleared customs in one country, they can be shipped to others in the union without further tariffs being imposed.

If the UK remains part of the customs union, it would be unable to strike trade deals with countries around the world.

Downing Street sources dismissed the idea. “The position remains very clear: we don’t think staying in a customs union is the right thing to do and it isn’t government policy to do so,” a spokesperson said.

The government hopes of avoiding a hard border in Ireland either through technological innovation or regulatory alignment have been set back after they were rejected during preliminary negotiations in Brussels.

Peers voted by 348 to 225 in favour of a plan requiring ministers to report on steps to negotiate a continued union last week.

On Sunday, cabinet members Sajid Javid and Michael Gove tweeted their backing for leaving the customs union.

And on Monday, the Times reported that Theresa May was facing pressure from Brexit-supporting ministers over her plans on a future EU trade deal.

The paper said Brexit Secretary David Davis, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson were concerned the prime minister's apparent favoured option would "encourage Brussels to press for Britain to stay in a customs union after Brexit".

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