This week a meeting of the Cabinet’s Brexit sub-committee confirmed that there will be no “new customs partnership” (NCP) and no form of customs union with the EU – or did it?
It certainly should have, after all it was part of the Conservative manifesto at the last election that we would leave the customs union, the single market and escape the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the very things that 17.4 million people voted for in the referendum. And it has been the stated aim of the Prime Minister to leave the customs union.
It is axiomatic that not to leave the customs union would break a key manifesto pledge and mean that the PM would have perpetrated an unprecedented U-turn – or that somebody was lying.
One would therefore expect it was clear that a customs union , including NCP, is off the table. In fact an impartial observer might wonder why it was on the table in the first place, given all of the above.
Of course it was placed on the table by our Remainer “Sir Humphreys”, in concert with the Eurocrats and their fifth column in Parliament, who have put forward the the Irish border and supposed “queues at Dover” as an impediment to Brexit Furious that their NCP scheme (otherwise known as a car park, for a Brexit going nowhere), was killed by the Cabinet, Olly Robbins, the Brexit Sir Humphrey in Chief, has popped up again like the scorned “bunny boiler” of Hollywood fame with another whizzy scheme to stop Brexit.
This time it is reported that he is saying that we will have to remain in the customs union until at least 2023, as we will not have the technology to cope with customs until then.
This claim smacks of “Project Fear” and is most curious especially since all the evidence points to us being ready in March 2019.
So why is this so obviously another scam?
Firstly, the so called Irish border question is something of a fiction. Secondly, there is already a border relating to the movement of people between the British Isles and the rest of the EU. Thirdly, there will be a border on the island of Ireland for the movement of goods, as indeed there is now, but it need not seem so. Fourthly, there will be a border between the UK and the EU for the movement of goods but this can easily be facilitated by a combination of technology and practical policy. And finally, all of this can be ready and in place by 2019.
There is of course already a border on the island of Ireland pertaining to the movement of goods, in particular in relation to tax, but not for people.
There has been considerable controversy surrounding the continued free movement of people across the border. The arrangements currently pertaining to the UK and the Republic have been in existence by treaty for almost 100 years, giving free movement of people across the common border.
Neither the UK nor the Republic are in the EU Schengen Zone and, as a consequence, people are currently checked at the borders the UK’s borders whether they are travelling within the EU or entering from the rest of the world. They are not currently checked when travelling between the Republic and the UK.
As long as this persists and there is an effective border with respect to the movement of people between the British Isles and both the EU and the rest of the world, there is no reason why, following Brexit, there should not be a continuation of free movement within the British Isles, including within the island of Ireland.
This regime would in no way challenge the border integrity of the EU given that the British Isles would be encapsulated within a border for the purposes of the free movement of people, as it is now. The only impediment to this approach is the intransigence of the EU and the Republic.
The central theme of the joint Sir Humphrey-Eurocrat plot, however, is not related to the movement of people but the contention that we will not be able to implement a customs regime for goods in time for our leaving the EU. Again this makes no sense.
HMRC has made clear that the new IT system will be ready by Brexit day, although there will be insufficient time for clients to connect their systems to the new HMRC system and there will be a need for a transition.
To read John Longworth’s piece for the Telegraph in full, click here.