BY JAMIE FOSTER
Of all of the subjects on which indicative votes were held yesterday night and last week, the one that came closest to being passed by the House’s circular firing squad was a permanent customs union. The fact it failed was good for Britain. It would be a very bad idea indeed.
The Customs Union was touted as an option that the whole House could unite behind. If it did so (there is talk of more indicative votes happening on Wednesday) it would be selling the country down the river. The Prime Minister must know this.
For a start a Customs Union arrangement would mean that we could not negotiate our own trade deals. This would leave us in thrall to the EU who could negotiate trade deals with only its own interests in mind. This could lead to a theoretical position where the UK would have to, for example, accept US goods without being able to sell our goods into the US market. Nulling Brexit.
While we would have no say in regard to the main body of any trade agreement we would also have no say in writing the rules that accompany any trade agreement. We would, however, have to abide by those rules. We would have to align with the EU on regulatory matters in order to abide by the customs union. This would mean being in a permanent vassal relationship with the EU. For the EU it would mean being able to offer market access to Britain’s 65 million people without having to take British interests into consideration. It is no wonder they would like it to happen.
The EU would decide trade tariffs again with no reference to the UK at all. Trade tariffs are set to protect individual interests that have been identified as being at risk in a particular market. None of the UK’s individual interests would be considered or protected but the UK would have to impose tariffs that it may not wish to nonetheless.
A customs union is a con against the British people who didn’t vote for it in the referendum. It is concerned only with the question of the Irish border. It would not, however, solve the problem of the Irish backstop. The EU has made clear that they will not move on to the question of a trading relationship until the withdrawal agreement has been signed. That agreement contains the backstop.
Those pushing for a customs union didn’t want to leave the EU in the first place and are clinging to any arrangement that keeps ties as close as possible. There is no real advantage to a customs union to the British people. It is one of the EU institutions that we voted to leave in the referendum and, in keeping with the spirit of the result, is something that we ought to leave not remain in.
To remain in a customs union while leaving the EU is to remain in an arrangement that the EU has control over and we have none. It puts us in a weaker position than we are in as a member of the EU. It prevents us making our own way in the way that was envisaged when we voted to leave. To give it the name ‘a softer Brexit’ is to obscure the fact that it is not a Brexit at all. It is holding on to the coat tails of the EU instead of letting go.
The idea of remaining within a customs union is part of the obsession MPs have about not leaving without a deal. The trouble is that a no deal Brexit is a far better option in all regards. Rather than wiggling around trying to avoid a no deal Brexit we should be embracing a no deal Brexit. It is time to get on and get out.
We need to avoid the trap that a customs union represents. Having to abide by rules and tariffs that we have no control over making and setting is not a situation we want to be locked into. It is time our MPs realised that they should be working to discharge their duty to those who voted in the referendum and won.
There is no way that a customs union is in the best interests of the UK. We need to be free to negotiate our own trade deals and have control over the rules and tariffs that go with those deals. We need to carve ourselves away from the security of the EU and get on with enjoying our independence. MPs must wake up to the facts – failing to deliver Brexit will be more than dangerous.