EU draws clear red line on UK customs deal
9 February, 2018
If Britain quits the Customs Union, it cannon keep its EU trade privileges, the Commission warned last Monday. “Without a customs union and outside the single market, barriers to trade in goods and services are unavoidable,” EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said in London, adding that “time has come for the UK to make a choice.”
Barnier spoke after a brief meeting with British PM Theresa May and Brexit negotiator David Davis ahead of the first round of talks this year. Barnier pointed out that Britain would have to abide by all EU laws during a transition period after it left the EU in March next year. “Everyone has to play by the same rules during this transition,” he said.
But Davis told British TV afterward that the UK would definitely quit the Customs Union. “It's perfectly clear what we want to do and there's no doubt about it. We're leaving the Customs Union,” he said. May's spokesman had said before the Barnier meeting that the UK wanted a “customs partnership” or a “highly streamlined customs arrangement” instead.
Barnier said he expected May to put forward a detailed document on her customs plan “in the next few weeks” ahead of an EU summit on Brexit in March. Any customs deal will also have to honour the UK's existing pledge not to introduce security checks on its land border with Northern Ireland. But May's government is reportedly not ready for now to come to an agreement on what sort of future relationship it wants with the EU after holding two futile Cabinet meetings on Brexit in the last days.