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13 August 2017

Hammond and Fox: We will leave customs union during Brexit transition

Ministers’ joint declaration in The Guardian means UK could strike trade deals with non-EU countries from moment it leaves in March 2019.

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, made the declaration in a joint article for the Sunday Telegraph intended to quash speculation that the cabinet is divided over how to implement Brexit and what will happen during the transitional period – or implementation phase, as ministers call it.

The article shows that Fox has won at least one internal cabinet battle over Brexit because it says the UK will be “outside the customs union” during the transition and that it “will be a ‘third country’ not party to the EU treaties”.

This means that the UK will be free to conclude trade deals with non-EU countries from the moment it leaves in March 2019, and that it will not have to wait until the transition is over, possibly three years later. [...]





Fox and Hammond are seen as the most pro-leave and pro-remain ministers in the cabinet and the Sunday Telegraph article shows that, on some issues relating to the transitional period, consensus has now been achieved.

They write: “We respect the will of the British people – in March 2019 the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.

“We will leave the customs union and be free to negotiate the best trade deals around the world as an independent, open, trading nation.

“We will leave the single market, because there was a vote for change on June 23rd and that is what we will deliver ...

“When we’ve left the customs union, we will build up on [relationships with other countries] by negotiating as an independent nation with the freedom to sign bilateral free trade agreements.”

[...]They write: “We want our economy to remain strong and vibrant through this period of change. That means businesses need to have confidence that there will not be a cliff-edge when we leave the EU in just over 20 months’ time.

“That is why we believe a time-limited interim period will be important to further our national interest and give business greater certainty – but it cannot be indefinite; it cannot be a back door to staying in the EU.”

They go on: “We are also clear that during this period our borders must continue to operate smoothly; goods bought on the internet must still cross borders; businesses must still be able to supply their customers across the EU and our innovative, world-leading companies must be able to hire the talent they need, including from within the EU.”

The article does not explain how these aims will be achieved. It also does not say how long a transitional period would last, or what payments the UK would continue to make to the EU while it was in place. [...]

Full article on The Guardian

© The Guardian

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