Don’t leave Bri­tain in EU cus­toms pur­ga­tory

Scottish Daily Mail - - News -

THIS pa­per has made no se­cret of its op­po­si­tion to the con­vo­luted plan, drawn up by Europhile civil ser­vants, for a post-Brexit cus­toms part­ner­ship – in which Bri­tain would col­lect tar­iffs for Brus­sels.

A bureau­cratic fudge, it would have made a mock­ery of the idea of tak­ing back con­trol of our borders, risked sub­ject­ing us to EU rules with­out any say in for­mu­lat­ing them and, most wor­ry­ingly, lim­ited our abil­ity to sign trade agree­ments with the rest of the world.

So it is wel­come that this fiendishly com­plex pro­posal ap­pears dead in the wa­ter and that min­is­ters and of­fi­cials are fi­nally look­ing at the al­ter­na­tives.

These in­clude the so-called ‘Max Fac’ op­tion which uses ev­ery pos­si­ble means to stream­line cus­toms checks, and is the ba­sis for all our com­merce with non-EU coun­tries. Cru­cially, it would give min­is­ters max­i­mum free­dom to se­cure new trade deals.

The full de­tails are not yet con­firmed, but this pro­posal ap­pears to come with a st­ing in the tail: Yet more de­lay.

So lit­tle prepa­ra­tion has been done that the tech­nol­ogy re­quired may not be ready for Jan­uary 2021, when the tran­si­tion agree­ment is set to end.

As a re­sult, cus­toms ar­range­ments sim­i­lar to to­day’s are likely to con­tinue for some time after­wards.

Through grit­ted teeth, the Mail ac­cepts this may be a nec­es­sary price for se­cur­ing a Brexit wor­thy of the name. There is, how­ever, one es­sen­tial caveat: This so­called cus­toms align­ment MUST be strictly time-lim­ited.

A fixed date and a firm plan will fo­cus civil ser­vants and ne­go­tia­tors’ minds on com­ing up with solutions. With­out that tar­get, the EU will sim­ply drag its feet in the hope of ei­ther keep­ing us shack­led to Brus­sels or that the wreck­ers in the House of Lords will de­stroy Brexit en­tirely. Mocked and de­rided by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, that would be the worst of all worlds.

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