Prime Minister, Theresa May, will press for Britain to enter into a temporary customs deal with the European Union in 2019 to avoid chaos on the day after Brexit.
The government will use a position paper published on Tuesday to reveal that, for a brief period, it will seek a deal allowing the transit of goods across borders to continue as now, perhaps by striking a “temporary customs union”.
Ministers hope this will avoid economic disruption by giving businesses and officials time to gear up for a new customs regime; while sidestepping the constraint that full members of the customs union are not allowed to strike independent trade deals with non-EU countries.
No specific time limit for the interim deal has been spelled out by the government, but ministers involved in the negotiations believe anything longer than two years would be unlikely to secure the backing of Britain’s EU partners.
The government is examining two options: either a highly streamlined new arrangement “in which the UK would manage a new customs border” but would seek to make any checks minimal; or a new customs partnership, which would see Britain replicate the EU’s approach so closely that it would “negate the need for a customs border”.
The CBI’s Deputy Director, Josh Hardie, welcomed the publication of fresh details of the government’s aims for a new customs deal.
However he called for rapid progress on a wider trade deal, including what tariffs and other barriers would be imposed on exports to the EU.
“Business wants to see as frictionless a customs system as possible, with a strong emphasis on digital systems that make it easier to trade,” he said.
“But to secure frictionless trade, negotiations on regulation, tariff and non-tariff barriers will have to take place. All efforts should be made to deliver a single-step transition, so that businesses don’t have to adapt twice.”