Without a seat at the table, customs union membership is worthless

Without a seat at the table, customs union membership is worthless
Without a seat at the table, customs union membership is worthless
Author

24 April, 2018

A Downing Street source told the BBC that the Government would stand firm on the issue whatever the outcome of the Commons vote, saying: "We will not be staying in the customs union, or joining a customs union".

Theresa May's government faced their first defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords last week when peers voted in favour staying in the customs union.

A spokesperson for the Brexit department said: "We are disappointed that the House of Lords has voted for this amendment in spite of the assurances we have provided".

Over the weekend, reports claimed Theresa May had privately said the United Kingdom might stay in a customs union with the bloc, unable to control trade police, after unelected Peers voted to stay in such a union.

She said it was vital that Britain has "as frictionless border with the European Union as possible" once it leaves the European Union, but added: "We also want to negotiate our own free trade deals around the rest of the world".

On Monday, Justice Minister Lord Keen of Elie sparked heckles as he hit back at the amendment's backers during the debate, declaring that the adoption of a "body of foreign law" would be "one of the greatest constitutional outrages since 1689".

British Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to avert a cabinet rebellion amid fears from euroskeptic lawmakers of her party that she will keep the United Kingdom in the European Union's customs union after Brexit. This means the United Kingdom is not allowed to broker its own trade deals.

Nevertheless, "the suspicion remains that May is actually less committed" to leaving the union than Downing Street suggests, says Politico's Jack Blanchard.

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The PM's vow to leave the EU's trading bloc is a key plank of her Brexit plan, but she is coming under pressure to change tack.

Rees-Mogg believes that after leaving the union, the United Kingdom should phase out all tariffs, in order to reduce consumer prices and stimulate competition.

"More importantly, on a three-line whip, we have twice now had formal, important votes in the House of Commons on this, and the House of Commons voted on both occasions by a big margin that we should leave the Single Market and the Customs Union".

Those in favour of remaining in the customs union argue that cutting trading ties would severely damage the United Kingdom economy.

The Confederation of British Industry has called for the United Kingdom to remain in the customs union, while the Labour Party has also backed a similar arrangement.

"There seems zero chance of having infrastructure in place by 2019 to deal with the customs checks that would be required", the broadcaster adds.

Brexiteers fear the parliamentary arithmetic, combined with Brussels's rejection of Britain's customs proposals and the need to show how a hard border can be avoided, will push the prime minister into seeking some kind of customs union with the EU.


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