Although UK Prime Minister Theresa May earlier mulled other options of customs partnership with the EU, now she seems to be determined to fully withdraw the country from the bloc's customs union within a wider Brexit process.
Theresa May said that the UK would leave the EU customs union in 2020, when the Brexit transition period ends, pointing out that work on customs arrangements with the EU currently remains a priority, the prime minister's spokesperson told reporters.
He also noted that there were some unresolved issues concerning the future customs options after the meeting of the cabinet's Brexit subcommittee was held last week, referring to the fact that May delayed her final decision on the matter after some pro-Brexit ministers raised their concern over her proposal on a "customs partnership."
In spite of UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's harsh criticism of May's customs proposal, the prime minister still had "full confidence" in Johnson, according to her spokesman. Earlier in the day, Johnson lashed out at May's proposal on the so-called hybrid option of a "customs partnership" with the European Union, calling it "crazy."
Theresa May has been recently criticized by a group of pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers, who sent a letter to the prime minister, arguing that the "customs partnership" is "undeliverable in operational terms and would require a degree of regulatory alignment that would make the execution of an independent trade policy a practical impossibility." At the cabinet's Brexit subcommittee meeting on May 2, the Brexiteers urged May to abandon her preferred option of a customs partnership, which, according to critics, could tie the UK to EU rules.
All in all, there are two customs options for Britain after the country withdraws from the EU. Pro-leave ministers, including Boris Johnson, advocate a maximum facilitation proposal, which means that customs checks are minimized with the help of new technologies so that firms would not have to pay duties every time their goods cross the border.
The second variant, a partnership option, proposed by Theresa May, is preferred, in particular, by UK Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark. The prime minister's plan presupposes that the UK would continue to collect tariffs set by the EU customs union for goods coming into the country on behalf of the bloc.
The issue of the UK customs arrangements has been a stumbling rock in the Brexit negotiations between London and the EU. The UK voted in a referendum to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016, and last March, May officially invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, launching the process of the country's withdrawal from the bloc.
All EU member states are part of the customs union, where all countries have a common tariff on goods transported from outside of the EU, whereas between the states within the bloc there are no tariffs at all. The British government says it is leaving the bloc's customs union in order to be able to conclude its own trade deals with other countries around the world and now the UK has to agree on an option to replace it.
You can read this article as it originally appeared at Sputnik here.
(PHOTO: Matt Crossick - PA Images via Getty Images)