Today, Parliament debates a motion which states how important it is for the UK to have frictionless trade, and no tariffs. That means we enjoy trade that is as easy to sell from Doncaster to Dortmund, as it is from Doncaster to Darlington.
When we buy or sell goods to other EU countries there are no hidden taxes (known as tariffs) and no bureaucracy that delay the goods at the borders. Goods from, say, China, Brazil or India, to other EU countries do face tariffs, because they are outside this tariff-free club, known as the EU Customs Union.
Some MPs want to stress how important this is. But for some MPs, the real message is that the UK should not leave the EU Customs Union (EUCU)
Here’s the problem.
The UK is only a member of EUCU because we are members of the European Union. In March 2019, the UK leaves the European Union and will no longer be a member of the EUCU. Some MPs want to reverse Brexit and stay in EUCU.
I pledged at the general election to accept Brexit and to seek to get the best deal for Doncaster and Britain. I do not support overturning Brexit.
Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer agree with me. They say that after Brexit, the UK should be part of a new arrangement with the Customs Union. We would agree to tariff free trade etc, but the UK would be free to agree its own trade deals with other countries. Current members of the EUCU let the EU make all the agreements on behalf of each member state. I don’t agree with that. I certainly don’t want any “new customs union” to allow the EU to make all our trade agreements, and we get no say.
Some MPs want to tie the Government’s hands on the Customs Union – my worry is that this will send a signal to the EU’s negotiators to offer the UK a poorer deal. We have to press the Government on Brexit, but not weaken the UK Government in the negotiations.
There are hundreds of trade agreements, some big, many quite small. So how we tackle this over the next ten or twenty years is a big issue.
Watch this space.