The Government has today published a paper – Future customs arrangements: a future partnership paper. This is the first in a series of papers on the new deep and special partnership the government wants to build with the EU.
The paper, which is available to view here, sets out the Government’s vision on trade and customs, including two broad options for future customs arrangements between the UK and EU. It outlines that, in assessing the options for the UK's future outside the EU Customs Union, the Government will be guided by what delivers the greatest economic advantage to the UK.
This paper lays out two distict options:
- A highly streamlined customs arrangement between the UK and the EU, streamlining and simplifying requirements, leaving as few additional requirements on EU trade as possible. This would aim to: continue some of the existing arrangements between the UK and the EU; put in place new negotiated and potentially unilateral facilitations to reduce and remove barriers to trade; and implement technology-based solutions to make it easier to comply with customs procedures. This approach involves utilising the UK’s existing tried and trusted third country processes for UK-EU trade, building on EU and international precedents, and developing new innovative facilitations to deliver as frictionless a customs border as possible.
- A new customs partnership with the EU, aligning our approach to the customs border in a way that removes the need for a UK-EU customs border. One potential approach would involve the UK mirroring the EU’s requirements for imports from the rest of the world where their final destination is the EU. This is of course unprecedented as an approach and could be challenging to implement and we will look to explore the principles of this with business and the EU.
Initially this looks like a softening of the position the Government laid out in the original Brexit White paper, with the introduction of an interim customs agreement to avoid any potential 'cliff edge', with regard to goods being held up at ports both sides of the Channel.
It should be remembered that this is a policy document only and will form the basis of the UK's starting position in Brexit negotiations, as per the paper "our ultimate customs arrangement will depend on our negotiations with the EU".
A European commission spokesman said: “We will now study the UK position paper on customs carefully in the light of the European council guidelines and the council’s negotiating directives. “As [the EU’s chief negotiatior] Michel Barnier has said on several occasions, ‘frictionless trade’ is not possible outside the single market and customs union.”