Brexit: UK Wants In and Out of the EU - Global Trade Magazine
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  September 5th, 2017 | Written by

Brexit: UK Wants In and Out of the EU

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  • As the UK leaves the EU it must also depart the EU Customs Union.
  • The UK government wants a new customs arrangement with the EU that facilitates frictionless trade.
  • A customs union would make trade between the UK and the EU anything but frictionless.

As the United Kingdom leaves the European Union it must also depart the EU Customs Union, which open only to members. The UK government has released the first in a series of papers outlining its desire to set up, in its words, “a new customs arrangement that facilitates the freest and most frictionless trade possible in goods between the UK and the EU…”

The proposals contained in the paper are supposed to be a conversation starter with business and other stakeholders ahead of the Brexit negotiations which are to begin in the fall.

The government wants the new customs system to encourage growth in trade between the UK and the EU and to mitigate administrative burdens and delays. It believes a customs union could impose few additional requirements on EU trade. In other words, the government wants to leave in place the existing arrangements between the UK and the EU to the greatest extent possible.

Some critics are dubious of such an approach. A video released by the University of Sussex explains that a customs union would make trade between the UK and the EU anything but frictionless.

The government’s plan also foresees no need for a future UK-EU customs border. “One potential approach would involve the UK mirroring the EU’s requirements for imports from the rest of the world where their final destination is the EU,” said the paper. “This is of course unprecedented as an approach and could be challenging to implement and we will look to explore the principles of this with business and the EU.”

The paper also addresses the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the UK’s only land border. “We must avoid a return to a hard border,” the paper said.

The ultimate customs arrangement between the UK and the EU will depend on negotiations between the two parties. It sounds like the UK wants both in and out of the European Union, an approach which is not likely to find a sympathetic ear with EU negotiators.

It’s just too bad that UK voters supported Brexit in last year’s referendum and that UK government officials committed to actualizing a break with the EU.

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