Analysis

Brexiters rightly smell rat over customs extension scheme

by Luke Lythgoe | 17.05.2018

Guess what Theresa May’s new plan for customs arrangements post Brexit is? She wants to keep us in the EU’s customs union until an alternative scheme can be made to work. The prime minister also thinks this scheme will resolve the problems with the Irish border. But as with so many of May’s brainwaves, it is unworkable and likely to be shot down by the EU.

The prime minister’s new plan is based on the assumption that neither of the long-term customs options currently being discussed in Cabinet will be ready even by the end of the 21-month transition period. Officials are saying they won’t be ready until 2023 at the earliest. Different versions of the story are reported in the Telegraph, Times, Bloomberg and Politico.

Described as a “pick and mix” approach by EU officials, May’s latest offer would keep the whole of the UK – not just Northern Ireland – locked into the EU’s customs union after 2021. However, it drops the bits of the EU plan to keep Northern Ireland in regulatory alignment with those single market rules necessary to the smooth functioning of the Good Friday Agreement.

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This won’t work. First, Brussels is being clear that if the UK wants a longer transition from the EU then we’ll have to extend the entire transition deal – that means single market rules and paying into the budget, not just staying in the customs union. The EU is ready to offer such an extension, according to the Times. But that would mean paying money into the EU budget and following EU rules without a vote for years to come. Hardly taking back control.

Second, the government seems to think it can stay in the customs union and still pursue its own trade deals across the world. This will not work so long as the UK is applying the EU’s common external tariff with other countries.

Meanwhile, May’s latest proposal will do nothing to calm the agitated Brexiters in her party. Leave-backing ministers such as Michael Gove and Boris Johnson were “outgunned” during Tuesday’s Brexit War Cabinet and “reluctantly” accepted the plans, according to the Telegraph. David Davis was “reassured after securing improvements”.

Backbench Brextremist ringleader Jacob Rees-Mogg rightly smells a rat. “We have gone from a clear end point, to an extension, to a proposed further extension with no end point. The horizon seems to be unreachable. The bottom of the rainbow seems to be unattainable. People voted to leave, they did not vote for a perpetual purgatory.”

Quite so. It’s not just Brexiters who won’t like the idea of being stuck in limbo indefinitely. This would sap business confidence, damaging our economy even further. We’d also be turned from being one of Europe’s most powerful countries into a rule-taker.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “Brexiters rightly smell rat over customs extension scheme”

  • IMHO, Theresa May is a procrastinator, she is flanneling and deliberately going nowhere.
    She plans to keep up this charade until it is too late to get any agreements sorted, she then plans to, incorrectly, blame the EU for their unfairness and intransigence, that means we have no choice, but a rock hard brexit on the 29th of March next year!
    She, and her very wealthy paymasters, will then have everything they want, no legal contact of any sort with the EU. Evading the new EU anti tax avoidance legislation becoming UK law (which it must if we don’t leave quick).
    Never mind, there will be domestic chaos, with social and financial meltdown for a few years, in the biggest slump sine the 1930’s.
    The vulnerable will mostly die, and our immigration figures will be virtually nil Nobody will want to come here? most major industries will relocate into EU countries, except JCB, Mays pal will keep supporting her, even when she is out of office.
    May and her spouse will be laughing all the way to their banks, with their ill gotten gains, in England, the new daddy of all tax havens.
    We, the serfs, or plebs, if they have any work at all, will be required to pay a lot more tax, to keep the wealthy in the style they are accustomed to!