Barnier rejects UK customs plan

He says there will be no deal without an "all-weather insurance policy” on the border

Barnier rejects UK customs plan

UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab chief EU Negotiator Michel Barnier at a joint press conference in Brussels, 26-07-2018. Image: Olivier Matthys/AP/Press Association Images

The EUs chief negotiator has rejected a key element of the UK Government’s recent Brexit proposals.

Speaking at the close of the latest round of talks Michel Barnier shot down Britain’s plan to collect tariffs on behalf of the EU at UK borders.

Appearing alongside UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab he also noted that there is already a “clear agreement” between both sides that the Withdrawal Agreement must contain an “all-weather insurance policy,” ensuring there will be no return to a hard border in Ireland.

“As we agreed in December, the absence of a hard border has to be guaranteed no matter what the future relationship will be,” he said.

He noted that “we have always said” that a better solution can be found in the future relationship between the EU and the UK, but warned that the backstop must remain in place “unless and until” the new relationship is agreed.

"Continued uncertainty on this issue after the UK's withdrawal would be unacceptable for Ireland, for Northern Ireland, for the UK as a whole, and obviously for the EU27,” he said.

In response, Mr Raab called for the backstop to be "time-limited" to prevent an "extended limbo" after Brexit - something the EU has already rejected out of hand.

UK integrity

Referencing the British Prime Minister’s claim that the proposed backstop would create a border between Northern Ireland and Britain, Mr Barnier said Europe has “no objection in principle” to the idea of extending it to the UK as a whole - rather than keeping it exclusively for Northern Ireland.

“But we have doubts that this can be done without putting at risk the integrity of our Customs Union, our Common Commercial Policy, our regulatory policy, and our fiscal revenue,” he said.

“Facilitated customs arrangement"

The plan to collect tariffs on the EUs behalf was a key part of the plan the British Prime Minister Theresa May agreed with her Cabinet at her Chequers country retreat nearly three weeks ago.

Known as the "facilitated customs arrangement" the plan would see the UK collecting EU taxes on goods headed to the EU through Britain, while setting its own taxes on goods destined for the UK market.

Referencing the ‘Leave’ campaigns ‘taking back control’ slogan, he warned that, “maintaining control of our money, law and borders also applies to the EU's customs policy."

"The EU cannot - and will not - delegate the application of its customs policy and rules, VAT and excise duty collection to a non-member, who would not be subject to the EU's governance structures," he said.

Customs Union

He called on the UK to “respect this principle” and said the EU remains open to creating a new customs union with the UK.

He said any new customs arrangement must be “workable and must protect EU and national revenue, without imposing additional costs on businesses and customs authorities."

Mr Raab claimed the UK's proposals "respect the result" of the Brexit vote, as well as the "core principles of the EU."

In a message to Brussels, he added: "We have considered the innovative approaches the EU has taken in the past with other third countries - when the political will has been there."

The two men agreed to meet again in mid-August before holding weekly discussions right up until October – the current deadline for the completion of the Withdrawal Agreement.