Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Business | By Tara Barton

United Kingdom publishes Brexit customs plan after May-Davis fight

United Kingdom publishes Brexit customs plan after May-Davis fight

The aim is to buy time before the permanent EU-UK future relationship - which has yet to be agreed - begins.

May agreed to a backstop - which would see the United Kingdom match EU trade tariffs temporarily in order to avoid a hard border in Ireland - in principle in December, but objected to the EU's language, which would have effectively kept Northern Ireland within the EU's customs union.

The one-year backstop plan would come after an nearly two year transition period following Britain's departure from the European Union in 2019.

"The UK is clear that the temporary customs arrangement, should it be needed, should be time limited", said the document.

"The backstop paper has been amended and now expresses, in much more detail, the time limited nature of our proposal - something the PM and DD have always been committed to".

The paper proposes that if there is no final agreement, there should be a temporary customs arrangement lasting up to 12 months.

"Is it a workable solution to avoid a hard border?"

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According to the prime minister's deputy spokeswoman, May held "constructive" discussions with Davis, as well as separate meetings with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - both prominent Brexiteers.

Brexiteers are concerned that if the United Kingdom is tied into an open-ended customs arrangement with the EU it will prevent it from developing its own trade policy and the United Kingdom would remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The idea is "to apply a temporary customs arrangement. between the United Kingdom and the EU" that would allow the United Kingdom to sign free trade deals with other countries (but not implement the parts of them relating to tariffs, rendering them largely pointless). Does it respect the integrity of the single market/customs union?

"I think that is what the Prime Minister needs to do and tell these Remoaners in government to listen to what the British people said".

The "backstop" plan is "something that we don't want ever to happen", she said. The UK signed up to a backstop in December following pressure from Ireland and the European Union, but has failed to put forward any alternatives since then, leaving it as the only agreed option in the run up to a crucial summit at the end of June.

But European Commissioner Guy Verhofstadt poured scorn on the proposal, saying it was "difficult to see how United Kingdom proposal will deliver a workable solution".

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, welcomed the plan, saying on Twitter that it would be examined with three questions in mind. "Clearly, a great deal of work remains to be done and this needs to be the highest priority for all sides in the weeks ahead".

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