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Brexit Secretary David Davis © English PEN

Brexit: UK proposes ‘temporary customs union’


The UK has outlined the ‘ambitious new customs arrangement’ it wants to secure with the EU after Brexit.

Ministers said the plans would mean the ‘freest and most frictionless possible trade’ with the rest of Europe.

This could include a ‘temporary customs union’ after Brexit to prevent border issues as the UK leaves the EU.

Businesses have called for transparency since the UK said it was leaving the customs union.

The customs union document is the first in a series of papers to be published by the UK government on key negotiation issues.

On 16 August it is expected to set out proposals for the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

According to the newly published government paper, the UK could ask Brussels, Belgium, to establish a ‘temporary customs union’ after it leaves the EU in March 2019.

However, during this period, it would also expect to be able to negotiate its own international trade deals – something it cannot do as an EU customs union member.

Once this period expires, the UK will look to agree either a ‘highly streamlined’ border with the EU or a new ‘partnership’ with no customs border at all.

The government said the interim arrangements would mean businesses would only have to adjust once to the new arrangements.

All of this will have to be negotiated with the EU – and the two sides have not yet even started discussing trade matters.

Keir Starmer, the Labour Party’s shadow Brexit secretary, said the proposals were “incoherent and inadequate” and were designed to “gloss over deep and continuing divisions within the cabinet”.

“These fantastical and contradictory proposals provide no guidance for negotiators or certainty for businesses,” he added.

Pan European Networks Ltd