UK PM May Faces Fresh Battles Over EU Customs Union Plan

Charlene Craig
April 23, 2018

The remarks follow a big Government defeat in the House of Lords on the issue of retaining a customs union with the EU last week and reports the Prime Minister and her inner team are considering a rethink on the matter.

But Eurosceptic former Cabinet minister John Redwood told Today the customs union was a "protection racket" and it was "extremely good news" that the Prime Minister was not softening her position.

The Sunday Times has reported that Mrs May may have to accept staying in the customs union.

Whether to stay part of the EU's customs union or to leave it and strike a trade deal with the EU from outside, such as Canada or Norway, is one of the choices Britain must make as part of Brexit.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove tweeted yesterday that "the referendum vote was clear - we need to take back control of trade - that means leaving the protectionist customs union".

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Brexiteers hate the agreement as it means the United Kingdom has to charge the same tariffs on outside countries as the rest of the European Union, so there would be a competitive advantage.

However, that outcome would make it "effectively impossible to negotiate free trade deals with other countries - one of the Government's key ambitions and a central justification for leaving the EU", says The Guardian.

The main topic will be discussion of the U.K.'s aims for worldwide trade after Brexit, according to the official, and will nearly certainly involve consideration of the customs deal the country will seek to reach with the bloc.

The customs union means the EU is a trade bloc with all the countries involved applying the same tariff on goods from outside coming in.

The trade and customs bill will be debated by MPs on Thursday with a vote that, while not binding, will be seen as an important indicator of the parliamentary mood.

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"The fact that the President of the CBI, representing thousands of employers in this country, is calling out a Cabinet Minister on Twitter is a damning indictment of this Government's destructive Brexit policy".

Last week Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned that failing to leave the union would be worse than no Brexit at all.

"But I also recognise the importance to businesses like this of being able to have as frictionless a border as possible into the European Union".

Mr Fox is due to speak about the opportunities of Brexit in a speech to the financial industry on Monday. In comments released beforehand, he said: "We will work with old allies and new partners across the world, utilizing the UK's economic strength and diplomatic prowess to forge new trading relationships".

■ Worldwide trade secretary Liam Fox has pledged to cut "bureaucracy and red tape" to promote free trade post-Brexit. Whatever one's view on the referendum result, it must be acknowledged that, outside the European Union, this country will enjoy a new degree of economic agility.

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