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May pushes ahead with plans for #Brexit customs partnership with EU




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UK Prime Minister Theresa May is pushing ahead with plans for a customs partnership with the EU, warning Brexit supporting colleagues that the alternative could be parliament calling for a full UK-EU customs union, writes Martin Banks.

The proposal would see the UK charge EU tariffs on all imported goods and apply a rebate on those that are sold in the UK.

However, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the UK press that the customs partnership was a “crazy system”, adding, it would mean that “if the EU decides to impose punitive tariffs on something the UK wants to bring in cheaply, there’s nothing you can do. That’s not taking back control of your trade policy.” He also said it would make it “very, very difficult to do free trade deals”.

This comes after Business Secretary Greg Clark last weekend rejected reports that the customs partnership proposal was off the table.

He also suggested it could take until 2023 to implement new customs systems, saying “I think it would be a mistake to have to move from one situation to another and then to a third…It may be possible to bring [the long-term customs arrangements] in over that period of time.”

The chair of the Conservative European Research Group, Jacob Rees-Mogg, criticized Clark’s statement as “scare stories from Project Fear”.

Rees-Mogg added that for the customs partnership plan to work goods will have “to meet all the single market regulations as well, and therefore the customs partnership is in a sense…single market as well as customs union.”


Meanwhile, Theresa May wrote in The Sun on Sunday of her “absolute determination to make a success of Brexit, by leaving the single market and the customs union and building a new relationship with EU partners that takes back control of our borders, our laws and our money.”

Open Europe’s Henry Newman has argued it would be a mistake for the UK to put the customs partnership back on the table.

He also wrote in The Spectator that it is time for the government to end the circular discussions on customs unions.

Meanwhile, the House of Lords on Tuesday (8 May) debated an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that would keep the UK in the European Economic Area (EEA), which would allow for continued membership of the EU single market.

The amendment is expected to receive cross-party support, and the Observer reports that over 40 Labour peers are prepared to back it. However, Labour’s shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, said this weekend that post-Brexit EEA membership would leave the UK a “rule-taker”, adding: “We would have to be bound by the what’s called the acquis, the regulations – but we would have no say in making those regulations.”

Elsewhere, senior European officials have said that Labour’s economic policies are prompting the EU’s insistence on strict “level playing field” regulations. One EU source said: “The idea that Conservatives would legislate a race to the bottom is a myth and no one really believes it, even if some Tories have helped create it. The real fear is state subsidies under a Jeremy Corbyn government.”

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