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The EU single market and the customs union

06 February 2018

What this means is that Britain will now be able to strike trade deals around the world, something which a Customs Union could have prevented.

It is in Parliament, later this month, that the customs bill could become a battle over the customs union decision, with both Brexiteers and Remainers threatening to defeat the Government.

European Union leaders last week agreed that any transition should be strictly limited to 21 months, with Britain signed up to all existing European Union rules and regulations, but with no voting rights over them. No 10 - and Theresa May personally - has ruled out staying in the customs union but there are some who think that "a customs union" could still be arranged - and others who think the seemingly more diluted options of "a customs arrangement" could work as a compromise.

For hard Brexiteers, however, the customs union is about more than trade and economics.

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When grilled on whether her exit negotiation demands will include staying in the free trade area, Theresa May told Sky News in January 2017: "We're leaving, we're coming out".

The Secretary of State acknowledged that, whatever final line was agreed, it would probably involve "something within the customs framework", some form of customs "arrangement" or "partnership" with the European Union, but she noted that Mrs May continued to have an "open mind" as to how that could be achieved. "That's the deal we are looking for".

However, EU countries privately expect British negotiators to use the issue to secure better Brexit terms.

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The row over customs presents the first real fork in the road for her Brexit policy.

Mr Draghi discussed the idea of a "cliff-edge" Brexit and said the outcome of the transition period will be "exposed to political uncertainty".

The latest European Union draft of the transition agreement says the bloc should be able to cut Britain's access to the EU's single market if it misbehaves, and if there is not likely to be enough time to take the issue to the bloc's top court in Luxembourg.

The prime minister has previously remained open-minded about maintaining some form of customs union with the EU after Brexit.

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Brexit negotiators will begin a round of "technical" talks later, with Northern Ireland as one of the items on the agenda.

"Without a Customs Union and outside the Single Market, barriers to trade and goods and services are unavoidable", he said.

But media reports in recent days have suggested that a customs union deal covering goods could be back on the table, leading to rebellious talk among members of May's party who want a clean break with the EU. Remaining in the EU trading union would enable the United Kingdom to enjoy tariff free trade with other members, with common external tariffs.

David in Ashford called up insisting there was another way and that the Good Friday Agreement could survive with just some of the important aspects of the Customs Union.

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The EU single market and the customs union