United Kingdom government moving forward as one on Brexit plans-PM May's spokesman

April FrancisApr 24, 2018

After a small flutter in the dovecote of Theresa May's cabinet over the weekend, Downing Street on Monday restated her unequivocal commitment to leaving the customs union after Brexit.

It is a trading bloc made up of the EU's member states, in which goods move freely across borders without tariffs.

It reduces administrative and financial trade barriers, such as customs checks and charges, and boosts economic co-operation.

But being in a customs union for which Britain has no formal role in setting the rules and tariff schedules is nothing like being in the EU.

Britain's upper house of parliament handed the government its third defeat over Brexit in less than a week on Monday, voting down plans not to retain European Union rights in national law before Britain leaves the bloc.

Downing Street has insisted that the United Kingdom will still leave the customs union, the European Union's trade regime, ahead of a key vote on the issue.

Who supports remaining in the customs union? "That position hasn't changed and Downing Street have been clear about that this morning".

However, that outcome would make it "effectively impossible to negotiate free trade deals with other countries - one of the Government's key ambitions and a central justification for leaving the EU", says The Guardian.

Inside the EU, Britain was an influential player and shaped. May could threaten to ask parliament to call an election if she loses a vote on the customs union, or she could threaten to resign.

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According to the report, the PM and her top aides "will not be crying into our beer" if Parliament forces such an outcome on the Government. "So we want to come out of the customs union".

The Irish border is a key element of their case.

Crucially, keeping the customs union would also "go some way to resolving the thorny question of the Irish border, and would allow the United Kingdom to keep its red line of controlling immigration", says Bloomberg.

Leaving the customs union would also mean mandatory customs checks for every lorry between the United Kingdom and EU until a free trade deal is struck with Brussels, potentially causing major delays, Sky News reports.

Critics also argue that the much-heralded benefits of free trade deals with the likes of the U.S. and Australia would not be felt immediately as it would take years to reach an agreement.

"This is a welcome decision by the House of Lords".

There is no suggestion at this stage that Number 10 is encouraging such thinking about the upcoming parliamentary battles.

But Tory peer Lord Shinkwin said backing the amendment amounted a "vote of no confidence in parliament" to protect human rights.

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