The Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff, Nick Timothy, has today urged Minister’s to stand up to Parliament and insist that there will be no customs union agreement with the European Union.
Writing in The Sun, Mr Timothy says those who insist the UK should remain part of the customs union with the EU need to take a wider look at the implications this would bring.
Timothy highlights that of course remaining in the customs union is appealing, it requires little change and would allow tariff-free trade for firms and would minimise the checks that go on at borders for British citizens.
But he then goes on to say that there are little-discussed downsides to remaining in a customs union. The biggest disadvantage is that we would have to be rule-taker. That is we would have to abide by all the rules of the European Union without any say in how these rules are applied to Britain.
Even more importantly however though, is that should we elect to remain in the customs union, we would no control over what restrictions the EU may place on our trade throughout the Brexit negotiating process. He says there is a risk we may end up in a situation like Turkey, where we cannot form a trade deal with a country until the EU has established one. Such a reason he said, is why so few countries outside the EU choose to join a customs union with the EU:
“Other than Turkey, the only country outside the EU to form a customs union with it is Monaco: whose population would fill less than half of Wembley Stadium.”
This is why it is important to reject the idea of remaining within the customs union, we cannot be rule takers once we leave the European Union. This is why, Timothy argues, Ministers must stare down the ire of Parliament to ensure that this does not occur:
“It would be a bad deal for Britain, too. And as ministers have always said, “no deal is better than a bad deal.””
Mr Timothy says the Government must work out what it’s own preferred option for our future trade relationship is first and foremost. There are currently two options, both of which would guarantee zero tariffs and mutual recognition of standards for trade between Britain and Europe.
The first is a “highly streamlined customs arrangement”, which would involve some customs checks between Britain and the EU, but use technology and policy solutions to make trade as smooth as possible.
But the second is a new customs partnership, which Timothy argues, would see us as external border to the EU, where we would run dual customs checks for goods moving between here and the EU. It sounds great on paper, but ultimately seems unlikely to succeed:
The EU has dismissed it as impossible, and it involves significant risks for Britain.”
Mr Timothy pointed to the dangers of such an agreement, saying that we would lack the ability to alter our rules and regulations and may eventually deter businesses from exporting or may see them turn to the higher EU tariffs.
It would also not provide us with the freedom, he points out, to move beyond the shores of the European Union and seek out our own trading deals, which of course was a crucial point to Brexit in the first place.
Mr Timothy has therefore urged his former boss and her cabinet colleagues to utterly reject both the customs union and the customs partnership.
But he has also struck a warning to the rebel Tory MPs saying that a partial Brexit would almost certainly see the next election fought on a need to “finish the job”. He said it would see the future of the Conservative Party dominated by Britain’s relationship with the EU. He has warned them to be “careful what they wish for.”
He concludes by saying it may not be what the remainers want, but it is time to move on and ensure that we have a clean and neat break from the European Union.