ON seeing the initials NCP, most of us think about parking. National Car Parks is, after all, Britain’s largest parking provider.
To political insiders, though, NCP now means the New Customs Partnership — an unworkable scheme cooked up in Whitehall that could topple Theresa May and derail the UK’s European Union exit.
It refers to May’s bright idea about what to do about our departure from the EU customs union.
During the referendum campaign, Brexiteers prevailed by arguing for Britain to “take back control of our laws, borders and money”.
But NCP will mean we remain ensnared within EU tariff structures, with Britain charged with collecting tariffs for Brussels and applying EU rules at its ports.
The scheme relies on an untested “track-and-trace” technology to judge if goods are destined for UK or EU markets. Repayment mechanisms will then hopefully settle differences between UK and EU tariffs later — something even the EU has dismissed as “magical thinking”.
It is an idea riddled with problems. And if you think it sounds ludicrously complex, that’s because it is.
Nevertheless arch-Remainer civil servants surrounding May are pushing the scheme incessantly — egged on by pro-Brussels ministers who have never accepted Brexit.
Getting out of the EU customs tangle is vital for Britain’s prosperity, post-Brexit. The EU’s customs union puts a tariff wall around all member states, imposing charges on goods brought in from the rest of the world. That means UK shoppers pay more, often to protect inefficient producers elsewhere in the EU.
Almost 40 per cent of all EU tariff revenue comes from imported clothing and footwear — raising prices on goods accounting for a high share of poorer households’ spending.
EU tariffs also make food more expensive. Grocery bills could fall by up to 20 per cent once we leave the customs union, according to the Policy Exchange think-tank.
It is scandalous that four fifths of the tariffs on non-EU goods bought by UK shoppers go directly to Brussels.
Over the past seven years, Britain has sent European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and his EU pals £16billion in such tariffs — enough to pay for 100,000 extra nurses over that entire period. Poor UK households paying over the odds for non-EU imports have footed much of this bill. We’re often told that being in the customs union means Britain benefits from the EU’s “60-plus” freetrade agreements with other nations. But only around half of these deals are in force — and most are with minnows and microstates.
All the EU’s trade deals combined cover less than a tenth of the global economy.
The EU is bad at striking trade deals as member states’ interests often conflict — and the French always dig their heels in on agriculture.
Alarmist nonsense That’s why, after years of trying, there is no EU free trade agreement with the US, China, India or any really large economy.
Britain has more chance of securing valuable consumerfriendly agreements negotiating alone with big nations — as Switzerland did with China in 2014. London can cut deals favouring sectors where we are strong, such as services, not skewed towards French and German interests, as EU deals often are.
And sizeable nations with EU trade agreements, such as South Korea and Mexico, say they now want bespoke post-Brexit UK deals. Big business lobbyists such as the Confederation of British Industry want to keep Britain in the customs union. They care more about protecting incumbent, inefficient corporations than democracy.
Leaving the customs union will boost the UK’s smaller, dynamic firms, as new trade agreements help them export to the world’s fastest-growing Eastern markets.
To read Liam Halligan’s piece for The Sun in full, click here.