Government slammed over ‘fantasy’ Brexit transitional plans

PUBLISHED: 09:30 15 August 2017 | UPDATED: 09:48 16 August 2017

PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

The cabinet has been accused of still believing Britain can “have its cake and eat it” after releasing details of a transitional plan that could include a temporary customs union.

Brexit Secretary David Davis will ask Brussels for an “interim” period in a bid to allow a smooth switch over to the new trading regime that will be put in place once the UK leaves.

A time-limited transition will mean businesses on both sides of the Channel only have to adapt once to rule changes, the Department for Exiting the European Union said

It comes after Chancellor Philip Hammond and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the UK would pull out of both the single market and the customs union in 2019.

Temporary arrangements could allow trade deals to be negotiated with other countries, something members of the bloc are forbidden from doing, while governments and businesses adjust to new arrangements.

Ministers have been warned about the strain ports could be put under if they face a big increase in bureaucracy for dealing with goods entering and leaving the country.

The proposals for new customs arrangements to allow the “freest and most frictionless possible” trade with the EU are being outlined in the first of a series of “future partnership papers” being released by the Government.

Although negotiations on a new system are not scheduled to start for sometime, the Government said setting out its aims showed the UK’s “desire to ensure our exit from the EU is smooth, orderly and successful”.

Labour former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie, a leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign group, said: “It looks like the new unified position in the Cabinet is to return the Government to the territory of wanting to have their cake and eat it.

“Ministers claim we can leave the customs union and yet still achieve ‘the most frictionless customs agreement anywhere in the world’ but with absolutely no detail about how such a miraculous new system will be achieved.

“It is a fantasy to pretend we can have the freest and most frictionless trade possible with our largest partner when the Government remain intent on pulling Britain out of the customs union.”

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrats Brexit spokesman, said the Government’s “extreme Brexit will end up leaving Britain poorer”.

He added: “Even if they were agreed to by the EU, these proposals will only delay the economic pain caused by leaving the customs union.

“We still face the prospect of more red tape for businesses, longer queues at our borders and higher prices for consumers once the transition comes to an end.”

One option being put forward for by Davis for new arrangements would see the UK manage a new customs border with administration streamlined to the “fullest extent possible”.

The Brexit Secretary will also float plans for a customs partnership with the EU that would negate the need for a customs border between the UK and the rest of the bloc.

A position paper on the fraught issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will published on Wednesday, ahead of the third round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels at the end of the month.

DExEU said the document will make clear the commitment to maintain a seamless and frictionless border with no return to the hard borders of the past.

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