PRIME Minister Theresa May has spelt out greater details on the customs arrangements after Brexit and how Britain wants to avoid a hard Border on the island of Ireland.
Mrs. May set out details of her vision for a future economic relationship with the European Union in a speech in London last Friday which she said could deliver “an optimistic and confident future which can unite us all” leaving Britain “a stronger and more cohesive nation”.
Declaring that she was “confident” that a deal is “achievable”, Mrs. May said her message to Brussels was: “We know what we want. We understand your principles. We have a shared interest in getting this right. Let’s get on with it.”
She vowed that she would not walk away from talks over the coming months. But in response to questions, she made clear that she stands by her mantra that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
Setting out her desire for a deal “tailored to the needs of our economies”, Mrs. May insisted that all free trade agreements offer varying market access depending on the interests of the countries involved.
While there will be controls on numbers of people entering the U.K., British and EU citizens will still be able to work and study in one another’s countries and:
In order to avoid a hard Border, either a customs partnership, under which the U.K. “mirrors” EU requirements on goods from around the world, or a streamlined customs arrangement, using technology and “trusted trader” schemes to do away with the need for customs checks:
* Trade in goods should be “as frictionless as possible”, with no new tariffs or quotas;
* A comprehensive system of mutual recognition of regulatory standards, so that goods do not have to be approved in more than one country, along with a U.K. commitment to maintain “substantially similar” standards;
* UK to seek associate membership of Europe-wide medicines, chemicals and aerospace agencies, with an “appropriate financial commitment”;
* Environmental and animal welfare standards to remain “at least as high as the EU’s”;
* Joint working to manage fish stocks sustainably and agree mutual access to waters;
* A limit on barriers to U.K. and EU services companies setting up in one another’s territories, with an appropriate labour mobility framework and mutual recognition of qualifications;
* Mutual recognition of broadcasting licences;
* A system to replace existing “passporting” arrangements, allowing financial services companies to access markets in the U.K. and EU by maintaining “the same regulatory outcomes over time”;
* “Broad” co-operation on energy, including a “close association” with Euratom, as well as continuity of transport services and “flexible” domestic regulation for the digital sector to allow it to respond to developments in the EU digital single market.
But Mrs. May’s plan to ensure the continuation of a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could be rejected by the European Union, Ireland’s foreign minister has suggested.
The Prime Minister has committed to leaving the EU customs union which guarantees tariff-free trade, but insists a hard Border can be avoided through technological solutions and placing no new restrictions on the 80 per cent of cross-frontier trade carried out by smaller businesses.
But Irish Tanaiste Simon Coveney told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show he was “not sure that the European Union will be able to support” the plan, as it would be worried about protecting the integrity of the single market.
“While of course we will explore and look at all of the proposed British solutions, they are essentially a starting point in negotiations as opposed to an end point,” he said.
Mr. Coveney said if agreement cannot be reached during tri-partite talks between the U.K., Ireland and the European Commission, the backstop plan of full British alignment with customs union and single market rules that Mrs. May “committed clearly” to in December would have to be put in place.
“This isn’t a question of either side wanting to put up Borders, but if you have to protect a functioning single market, just the same way Britain wants to protect its own single market, well then you have to understand that if goods move from one customs union to another then there needs to be some checks unless there is some mechanism that is negotiated and put in place that prevents that.”