Government officials have said that they have started planning for a customs Union deal for Brexit in a similar style to the proposals put forward by Jeremy Corbyn, despite Theresa May publicly denouncing the plans last week.
Two separate Government Departments have reportedly told Sky News that they have started planning for a Brexit Deal very similar to the Customs Union plans made by Jeremy Corbyn, indicating that Government departments may be preparing for a political cave-in to at least one of Corbyn’s “five demands” to change May’s deal.
The plan to negotiate a Customs Union with the European Union, which has been argued to solve many of the issues currently facing the Conservative Government including threats of creating a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, would see a free trade agreement set up between Europe and the UK.
Jean-Claude Juncker has also recently told Theresa May that the European Union would be open to a Customs arrangement between Britain and the EU, in order to risk the growing possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
A Customs Union Brexit has been the main political goal of the Labour Party since February 2018, and following the record-breaking defeat of Theresa May’s own Brexit Deal, Jeremy Corbyn published the Labour Party’s conditions for backing a Brext deal in a letter made to the Conservative Government.
A Customs Union allows for the UK to retain it’s economic ties with the European Union through access to the European markets without requiring a tariff on goods entering the UK from the European Union, which would be enforced if the UK were to operate under World Trade Organisation rules in the event of a no deal Brexit.
A Customs Union deal would also prevent a hard-border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which has a high probability of being a requirement under a no deal scenario and breaches the Good Friday Agreement currently set down in UK law. There are concerns that if a hard-border is created, tensions in Northern Ireland will once against increase and lead to a similar situations to The Troubles faced by the state in the late 20th century.
Theresa May responded to the letter by stating that “we’re not considering Jeremy Corbyn’s customs proposals” and that the UK “must have it’s own, independent trade policy.” However, it appears that Civil Servants and policymakers in Whitehall have begun to prepare for the possibility of the UK entering into a Customs Union.
It is becoming increasingly likely, following the defeat of May’s Deal, that there are only two options for Brexit, as the deadline of the 29th of March is looming on the May Government, whether to fully crash out of the EU and into WTO trade rules, or to arrange a Customs Union with the EU.
The former option has already been proven to have potentially disastrous consequences for the UK economy, not just out of the economic impacts of new tariffs on 53% of all goods imported into the UK, but also through reports of Government Ministers not making adequate preparations for a no-deal Brexit. The latter option appears to be the only way forward for the UK if the 2016 referendum vote is to be followed through, but any way forward for the UK would require cross-party support, and without a consensus being reached soon, the UK will crash out of the EU with a No-deal scenario.