The Government has published a paper proposing two alternative models to replace the Customs Union on Brexit. Countries within the EU’s Customs Union do not impose tariffs on other countries’ goods, and imposes the same tariffs on imports from abroad. The UK has committed to leaving the Customs Union so that it is free negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries.
The Government’s first option proposals a complete removal on customs checks at borders between the EU and the UK; the second proposal is for a more efficient system of border checks which, the Government admits, would involve an increase in “administration”. Another, temporary proposal is for the UK to request an interim customs union following Brexit. However, the EU may block Britain’s proposal for a temporary customs union, with one former European Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, describing the plans as “very problematic” and at odds with the EU’s intentions for the transitional period. De Gucht suggested that the EU would only accept such a plan if Britain paid contributions to the EU and abide the decisions of the European Court of Justice. In addition, the EU could prevent Britain from seeking preferential trade deals with third countries. This will be a particular problem for the Government, as two Cabinet ministers have insisted that the UK be free to negotiate free trade agreements from day one following Brexit.