May’s meaningless waffle over customs won’t wash with Europe

by Hugo Dixon | 06.02.2018

The prime minister’s inability to set out a realistic vision for future customs arrangements with the EU is threatening our national interest.

Theresa May’s latest meaningless waffle about wanting a customs partnership with the EU but not a customs union was described by EU officials as “unrealistic”. Michel Barnier, who was in London yesterday to see May, said “the time has come to make a choice”. The EU’s Brexit talks chief told her that EU leaders would simply set down their own terms if she didn’t set out a vision, according to the FT. How’s that taking back control?

As we know, choice-making is not high in our prime minister’s skill set. She likes vagueness, to keep her rebellious party together and hang onto power. Indeed, despite all the talk about crunch meetings in the Brexit cabinet this week, the FT is reporting that it won’t decide anything and there’ll be another meeting next week. The one thing May is an expert in is kicking the can.

Barnier also said there remained “points of divergence” on the transition agreement. May’s foolish insistence last week that EU citizens coming during the transition shouldn’t have the same rights as those who arrive before is one; so is her wish to find some way of wriggling out of new EU laws that kick in during the transition. All because she’s running scared of Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and other Brexit extremist attack dogs who say it would turn the UK into a “vassal state”.

The prime minister’s difficulties will be made worse by the news that the UK could be forced to accept up to 37 EU directives during a two-year transition period, according to a Whitehall analysis leaked to the Daily Telegraph. The new laws would be in policy areas ranging from recycling to financial services.

What’s more, if the transition has to be extended to stop us falling off a cliff at the end of 2020, there’ll be yet more EU laws we’ll have to adopt with no vote on them. How’s that taking back control?

Meanwhile, the European Commission is drafting legal text to nail down what May agreed on the Irish border before Christmas. Once that’s done, it won’t be possible to fudge any longer what the full regulatory alignment promised then by the UK actually means.

Our can-kicking prime minister will no doubt try to avoid being pinned down because that would require her to be clear about customs. But some EU countries are insisting that they won’t agree to a transition deal unless the Irish issue is nailed down, according to the Guardian.

In other words, it’s not just that our hapless prime minister hasn’t a clue about the long-term pact she wants with the EU; her plan to conclude a transition deal next month could be unravelling. Businesses may then activate plans to shift production offshore. What a mess.

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    Edited by Luke Lythgoe

    One Response to “May’s meaningless waffle over customs won’t wash with Europe”

    • It’s time Corbyn or Sin Fein got off the fence and killed off this pathetic fiasco once and for all. I can’t believe this is all happening in a so called sophisticated country. I despair and will be leaving these shores to exercise my Irish citizenship in the near future. thanks very much you Tory idiots.