Published: Sun, May 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Theresa May told ministers to get 'hands on' over customs dispute

Theresa May told ministers to get 'hands on' over customs dispute

This is the option believed to be favoured by the Prime Minister, Chancellor Philip Hammond and other Remain-supporting Cabinet ministers, but Brexiteers fear it would scupper the UK's ability to have an independent trade policy.

Its report, "Brexit: food prices and availability" warned that if an agreement could not be negotiated by the time the United Kingdom left the European Union, the increase in tariffs could lead to significant price rises for consumers, while the additional customs workload could choke the UK's ports and airports and significantly disrupt food deliveries. The EU has expressed doubts about whether either option would work.

The UK would collect tariffs set by the EU customs union on goods coming into the UK on behalf of the EU.

The inaction will reinforce the sense of a government gridlocked over the Brexit process, with no agreement in cabinet over a future customs deal with the European Union, and speculation ministers might seek to delay decisions still further.

The second is for a streamlined customs arrangement now known as "max fac" - maximum facilitation. Johnson described May's plan as a "crazy system" earlier this week.

Meanwhile, pro-EU British lawmakers have been nibbling away at the government's flagship Brexit bill, which is now going through Parliament, in hopes of softening the terms of departure. Under this proposal, traders on an approved list or "trusted traders" would be able to cross borders freely with the aid of automated technology.

The prime minister has said further work is needed to come up with a solution that will deliver on her promise of frictionless trade without the need for a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

It also found that even in a "best-case scenario", in which the Government agreed tariff-free, frictionless trade imports on food and drink, worldwide rules would oblige the United Kingdom to conduct more customs and borders checks. It's unclear whether they will survive a final vote in the House of Commons, which has the power to override the unelected Lords.

This idea appears to be gathering support amid the impasse at the top level of Government, with both a former minister and ex-aide to Environment Secretary Michael Gove also backing the plan.

Labour would like a new customs union that would allow Britain to break free from the EU's state aid rules.

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