Brexit Bites, 21 May 2018

May 21, 2018

The UK government have announced that it will release its “most significant publication” in the form of a White Paper which will set out its precise ambitions for its future relationship with the EU.  Also next in our series of getting Back to Brexit Basics, we look at what’s known so far about possible solutions to the customs conundrum debated in the UK last week.

White Paper on its way

The UK government announced last week that it will be releasing a White Paper ahead of the key EU summit in June which will set out the UK’s precise ambitions for its future relationship with the EU.   In what the UK terms as the “most significant publication on the EU”, it’s expected the 100 page report will cover the future security relationship, aviation, fisheries and the financial services sector.

The highly debated future customs relationship which has left the UK cabinet divided is also expected to feature and it’s hoped that it will include a plan that shows how a hard border on the island of Ireland can be avoided.

A third solution

UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s inner cabinet remain in disagreement over how the future customs relationship between the EU and UK will work.

One proposal on the table, reportedly favoured by the Prime Minister is the customs partnership model in which the UK would collect customs duties on behalf of the EU.   A second proposal known as the maximum facilitation or “max fac” option seeks to use technology to keep the EU borders as frictionless as possible.  The EU has concerns about both options.

A third option was thrown into the mix this week where discussions took place on keeping the UK tied to the EU customs rules beyond the transitional date of 31 December 2020 and could stretch for some years after Brexit.  This would solve the issue of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland but it would mean that the whole of the UKwould be aligned with EU rules.

This idea is an extension of the EU’s proposal of the backstop which would keep Northern Ireland aligned with the EU’s customs union and Single Market. The UK has been seeking an alternative to this arrangement as it would effectively displace Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

The EU and Ireland are hoping that some form of solution is proposed in advance of June’s EU Summit with October being the deadline for ultimate sign off on the future relationship.