|Author (Corporate)||United Kingdom: Cabinet Office|
|Series Title||Policy Paper|
United Kingdom Ministers within the Brexit sub-group of the Cabinet met on the 2 May 2018 to clarify what the United Kingdom would seek in terms of the future customs arrangement with the EU. UK Prime Minister Theresa May had said that the UK would seek a 'customs partnership' with the EU.
However, the government's position was made more difficult by divisions within the Conservative Party and her government (and the wider country) as to the path forward.
On the 7 June 2018 the Cabinet Office issued a Technical note on temporary customs arrangement. This document set out the UK’s proposal for a ‘backstop’ customs arrangement between the UK and EU. It set out the UK’s proposal for the customs element of an arrangement to satisfy its commitments in relation to Northern Ireland, as agreed by the EU and UK in the December 2017 Joint Report.
In response chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted: 'I welcome publication of #UK proposal on customs aspects of IE/NI backstop. We will examine it with 3 questions: is it a workable solution to avoid a hard border? Does it respect the integrity of the Single Market/Customs Union?' Is it an all-weather backstop?
Subsequently on the 8 June 2018 Mr Barnier clarified that tweet with another: 'To avoid any confusion between the EU backstop & the UK customs paper: I reiterate that our backstop cannot apply to whole UK. The four freedoms are indivisible. This is not a rejection of the UK customs paper on which discussions continue. #Brexit'.
The topic was considered to be a key issue to be discussed at the European Council 28-29 June 2018. In the event divisions within the UK Cabinet continued and Theresa May was unable to bring an agreed UK position to the EU summit.
At the European Council the UK Prime Minister was told that while welcoming the further progress made on parts of the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, there were still important aspects that needed to be agreed. The 27 leaders expressed their concern that no substantial progress had yet been achieved on agreeing a backstop solution for Ireland/Northern Ireland.
Theresa May was due to make a further effort to bridge divisions within her Conservative Party by offering a new proposal on what kind of future relationship the UK wanted with the EU at a meeting of her Cabinet minister at Chequers on the 6 July 2018, with the details to be announced with a White Paper likely to be published on the 12 July 2018. Commentators noted on the 5 July 2018 that Downing Street had set out some details of the new 'facilitated customs arrangement' proposal.
During the Report Stage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Lords, the UK government was defeated on the 18 April 2018 on a proposed amendment introduced by Lord Kerr to keep the UK in a customs union when it left the EU.
Those backing it were concerned that leaving the customs union would mean a fall in UK exports and argued it would be difficult for the UK on its own to make trade agreements with super powers.
Members against the amendment responded saying that being inside the EU customs union puts the UK at a disadvantage and supporters of staying in it were making a political point rather than one based on trade. Members for the change said they were trying to get the best Brexit deal for the UK and its future relationship with the EU, not undo Brexit.
The government said it would not accept the change, arguing that staying in the customs union would make the UK bound by the EU’s tariffs and in a worse trade position.
A group of senior anti-Brexit MPs from various political parties from the Liaison Committee of MPs brought forward a non-binding Motion to the House of Commons on the 26 April 2018:
That this House notes that the EU is the UK’s largest export market for goods, accounting for a total of £145bn of exports and £241bn of imports in 2016; further notes the Government’s expressed aim to secure the freest and most frictionless possible trade in goods between the UK and the EU after 29 March 2019; notes the importance of frictionless trade without tariffs, customs or border checks for manufacturers and businesses across the country who trade with the EU; further notes that the free circulation of goods on the island of Ireland is a consequence of the UK’s and Republic of Ireland’s membership of the EU Customs Union; in addition notes the Government’s commitment to (i) in the UK-EU joint report on progress during phase 1 of the Article 50 negotiations, the maintenance of North-South cooperation and the all-island economy on the island of Ireland, (ii) the Belfast Agreement implemented in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 remaining a fundamental principle of public policy and (iii) the continuation of unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market; and therefore calls on the Government to include as an objective in negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU the establishment of an effective customs union between the two territories.
However, to forestall this a Downing Street spokesperson on the 23 April 2018 made clear that 'We will not be staying in the customs union or joining a customs union'.
United Kingdom Ministers within the Brexit sub-group of the Cabinet met on the 2 May 2018 to clarify what the UK would seek in terms of the future customs arrangement with the EU. UK Prime Minister Theresa May had said that the UK would seek a 'customs partnership' with the EU.
However, the government's position was made more difficult by divisions within the Conservative Party (and the wider country) as to the path forward.
|Countries / Regions||Ireland, United Kingdom|