The stance has been portrayed as wanting to have the cake and eat it. If the EU were to agree to it, it could encourage other member states to follow Britain’s example.
In what could be potentially a sticky point in Brexit negotiations, Britain has stated not only does it want an interim customs agreement with the EU but also the right to negotiate other trade deals.
As per excerpts of a document that was published on Tuesday which outlines Britain’s broad Brexit strategy, the British government wants to introduce a “time-limited” temporary customs union in order to reduce friction when it leaves the bloc in March 2019.
The idea is to provide a level of certainty, a concern that companies in the island nation have been very vocal about. Companies in the UK fear that the introducion of customs checks will cause expensive delays.
“Ministers will announce an intention to seek an ‘interim’ period with the EU of close association with the customs union that would allow for a smooth and orderly transfer to the new regime,” reads the statement from the UK government ahead of a publication of the first in a series of “future partnership papers”.
“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.”
Although business have cautiously welcomed the proposal, the Confederation of British Industry has however warned the government that “the clock is ticking and what matters now is giving companies the confidence to continue investing as quickly as possible”.
EU EYEING PROGRESS ON WITHDRAWAL
As for the European Union, it stated it would study the UK’s proposals carefully but would only address the proposal when sufficient progress has been made on Britain’s withdrawal.
The EU is eyeing progress on several fronts, which includes Britain footing the financial bill for its exit from the EU. However, the UK’s brexit minister David Davis told the BBC there would not be an agreed figure on the financial settlement by then.
“We’re going to talk it through very, very carefully, so at this stage we’re not going to commit,” said. Davis.
He later told LBC Radio: “We’re going to have a long haggle … (EU chief negotiator) Michel (Barnier) is getting quite cross with us. He’s saying ‘You should make your proposal’.”
After the first rounds of negotiations, a few EU officials have accused the UK for being ill prepared for the negotiations.
“It looks like the new unified position in the cabinet is to return the government to the territory of wanting to have their cake and eat it”, said Chris Leslie, a pro-EU campaigner and member of Britain’s opposition Labour Party.
With the way things are going, it would appear that Brtain wants the same priviledges that Turkey is enjoying.
Although Turkey isn’t part of the EU, it however is part of a separate customs union for industrial goods and can still negotiate bilateral trade deals.
Countries that are part of the EU’s customs union are not allowed to negotiate bilateral trade deals.
May’s government wants Britain to leave EU’s customs union and still be part of an arrangement similar to that of Turkey.
According to the British government, Britain could potentially avoid a “hard border” with Ireland, a EU member state, if this arrangement were to go through. However, if it doesn’t, it could potentially reignite tensions between Irish nationalists and unionists in British-ruled Northern Ireland.
On Wednesday, the government is set to put out its proposed solutions for the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland in detail. The solution is intended to show a united stance over the future relation between Ireland and the Britain, after rifts emerged among ministers.