UK 'must be clearer on Brexit trade goals'

Alicia Cross
February 7, 2018

May has been criticized among her colleagues and ministers in the cabinet.

So there were reports that during her recent trip to China, British Prime Minister Theresa May refused to rule out the option of remaining in some kind of customs union with the EU after Brexit, what has changed in the short time since then?

SDLP Brexit spokesperson, Claire Hanna MLA, accused Mrs May of putting narrow party interests ahead of people living in Northern Ireland.

At the heart of the conflict is how close a relationship Britain should seek with the European Union after Brexit.

The meetings on Wednesday and Thursday will each last for two hours and will focus on some of the thorniest remaining issues surrounding Brexit, including the customs union. I think they've just come back to what they said from the beginning.

Canada's trade deal with the European Union took more than seven years to negotiate and does not include services, including financial services. Will the cabinet be singing from the same hymn sheet on that?

The statement comes after senior cabinet members clashed over the issue.

The EU is the world's biggest trading bloc and the United Kingdom is the world's sixth-largest economy. "That is such a hard question on so many different levels - I'm going to pass", she said.

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"It is not our policy to be in a customs union", a source said. It will also contain the transition deal and be accompanied by a separate "political declaration" outlining the broad terms of a free trade accord and other relationships to follow after that. "It is not our policy to stay in a customs union". It does, however, levy a common external tariff on goods (with provisions allowing for derogations in certain circumstances).

The Confederation of British Industry has called for Britain to stay in a customs union and Chancellor Philip Hammond last month also left open the possibility of Britain joining a new customs union. Brexit could disrupt many supply chains, if businesses buy parts from Germany or Italy, for example.

But Trade Secretary Liam Fox told Bloomberg: "It is very hard to see how being in a customs union is compatible with having an independent trade policy because we would therefore be dependent on what the EU negotiated in terms of its trading policies and we'd be following behind that".

Some worry this undermines one of the key potential benefits of Brexit.

"If ministers are vague or divided, life for officials becomes impossible, as we can see now". It's not clear the prime minister will survive the crossfire.

"Without customs union and outside the single market, barriers to trade in goods and services are unavoidable", he said after the meeting which also included Brexit minister David Davis.

To use European Union referendum parlance, she must take back control.

Indeed, during Theresa May's speech of 17th January 2017 when she set out Britain's negotiating positions (the so-called "12 points"), it was stated that "I do want us to have a customs agreement with the EU".

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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