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Going Nowhere Fast: Bureaucrats Claim Britain Can’t Leave EU Customs Union Before 2023

Customs Union
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

Bureaucrats are telling the government that Britain cannot leave the EU’s Customs Union before 2023 – seven years after the public voted for Brexit.

Senior members of the Civil Service are claiming that new infrastructure allowing for relatively seamless trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will take years to install.

“The estimate is that it would take five years to get the new technology up and running. Olly Robbins [the top Brexit civil servant] said it could be done by 2022 at a pinch, but most people think that even five years is an optimistic estimate,” a Whitehall source told The Telegraph.

“The Remainers will try to use it to keep us in the customs union for good, and they will then argue that we might as well be in the single market as well.

“The frustrating thing about all this is that Number 10 has not done the work to prepare us for leaving the customs union. It’s two years on from the referendum now — it’s not as if they weren’t warned.”

The Civil Service is officially politically neutral but tends to promote europhiles who are strongly anti-Brexit, as evidenced by the votes of top officials elevated to the House of Lords after Brexit to give the country the benefit of their supposed expertise.

Every living former Cabinet Secretary voted against the government to keep Britain in a customs union with the European Union in a recent Lords vote, with Lord Robin Butler – who served under former prime ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and Tony Blair – wailing that the thought of leaving the bloc “strikes a dagger to my soul”.

“There are genuine concerns that this delay will lead to the UK staying in the customs union permanently,” a senior Brexit supporter told The Telegraph.

“Regardless of that, if we are still in the customs union by the time of the next general election in 2022 it will cause a catastrophe at the polls because we will not have delivered Brexit and voters will not have seen any benefits of leaving the EU,” they added.

Remaining in the Customs Union would leave Britain effectively incapable of conducting an independent trade policy even after Brexit, with the bloc continuing to negotiate trade agreements on its behalf – or indeed not negotiate them, should they be thought to prejudice the interests of France, Germany, and other major players within the bloc.

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