In a statement ahead of the publication of the full paper today, it has been revealed that the UK may seek a temporary customs union with the European Union once its membership of the EU customs union ends along with its membership of the single market in March 2019.

The statement, ahead of a detailed proposal on the future partnership said that “One possible approach would be a temporary customs union between the UK and the EU,”
“During this interim period, which will be negotiated with Brussels, Britain will look to negotiate bold new trade relationships around the world,” it said.

The Irish government also released a statement saying that it welcomed the proposal with “indications that the UK is providing more clarity on its thinking, as called for by” Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar a number of weeks ago.

The Irish statement went on to say that the “immediate focus for the coming rounds of negotiations remains on advancing the issues that have been identified by both the EU and the UK for Phase 1 of the negotiations, including citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the Irish specific issues”.

Brussels has yet to comment on the UK statement and is so far unwilling to discuss any trade deal as long at the three main issues of the Irish border, citizens rights and the financial settlement owed by Britain are unresolved. Recent talks seemed to result in no definite plan on any of the key issues and further talks so far, seem to lack any cohesive plan by the UK.

It finally seems that the Irish/UK border issue is also coming to the fore as a real problem in a future UK. Has Westminster realised that despite so called technology advancements, the idea of a closed border is becoming more impossible every day?Vehicles may be able to avail of some kind of registration system on the border but what about other factors such as food and livestock? How can Britain devise a procedure that will allow the current movement of hundreds of farm animals, diary produce and grain to travel back and forth without restriction. On average, Agribusiness accounts for over half of cross-border trade for NI businesses.

While this proposal by the UK isn’t a runner, has the penny finally dropped in Westminster and now begins a stalling tactic while the powers that be in the UK try to remove themselves from the “out is out” mentality?

It seems that day by day, the prospect of the UK remaining in the customs union is more likely and while Brexit may be unstoppable at this stage, a Norway type scenario is looking more plausible.

It may be just a matter of how the British government can attain this without looking like they haven’t given too much away but history will judge them accordingly if they decide to continue with the dogged path to isolation.

Ken Sweeney
Committed to idea of supporting aspiring writers and journalists. Serial podcaster.

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