Senior Cabinet Brexiteers are more concerned about the project than they have been in some time, I write in The Sun this morning.
The reason for this is that there is a concerted push underway to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU for good even after December 2020. If Britain is to take full advantage of the opportunities that Brexit offers, this must be resisted.
A customs-arrangements between Britain and the EU which speeds up checks, minimises bureaucracy and helps maintain cross border supply chains would be sensible, and mutually beneficial. What wouldn’t be, is a situation where the EU determines both the taxes charged on goods coming into this country from the rest of the world and which countries can export their goods to Britain tariff and quota free. But this is what staying in a customs union with the EU would mean—as the Turkish experience demonstrates.
Now, Theresa May has been clear that she doesn’t want Britain to be in a customs union with the EU after Brexit. So, why are we still talking it about? Well, the EU hasn’t given up on the idea. Michel Barnier keeps making clear that Mrs May can change her mind about this right up until December 2020.
Brussels is being encouraged to keep pushing the customs union by what is going on in parliament. A few days ago, the House of Lords backed an amendment supporting the Customs Union. Next week, the Commons will, in a backbench debate, almost certainly back an ‘effective’ customs union with the EU. I understand that the government is not likely to try and fight this vote as it is non-binding.
One of the key tests for any Brexit deal is whether it is sustainable. Any deal that doesn’t leave Britain free to make its own comprehensive free trade deals will fail that test and end up with everyone back round the negotiating table within a decade.