The Foreign Secretary has defended a clean Brexit and blasted the Prime Minister’s “crazy” plan to keep the UK tied to the Customs Union, as Theresa May moves to pressure her cabinet into back the plan.
Mrs May has repeatedly promised and continues to insist that the UK will leave the customs union, but critics argue her “customs arrangement” alternative is similar to staying in and stops the UK gaining the advantages of leaving the economic bloc.
Boris Johnson said the arrangement, whereby the UK would continue collecting tariffs on behalf of the European Union (EU), would make striking new trade deals difficult and betray the referendum promise to “take back control.”
“It’s totally untried and would make it very, very difficult to do free trade deals,” he told the Daily Mail on Monday.
“If you have the new customs partnership, you have a crazy system whereby you end up collecting the tariffs on behalf of the EU at the UK frontier,” he added.
The Brexit-backing MP and leader of parliament’s influential European Research Group, Jacob Rees-Mogg, cosigned the comments Monday morning, writing on Twitter: “Boris hits the nail on the head.”
If we were doing trade deal with EU today as independent sovereign country would we honestly want to join EU Customs Union or this crazy Customs Partnership? Do Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India want this approach? No! So let’s please think like independent nation now
— David C Bannerman (@DCBMEP) May 8, 2018
“If the EU decides to impose punitive tariffs on something the UK wants to bring in cheaply, there’s nothing you can do,” said Mr Johnson in his written remarks.
“That’s not taking back control of your trade policy, it’s not taking back control of your laws, it’s not taking back control of your borders and it’s actually not taking back control of your money either, because tariffs would get paid centrally back to Brussels.”
The prime minister had been expected to try to force through a revised version of the “customs arrangement” at a meeting of the Brexit “war cabinet” on Thursday, but has reportedly delayed it amid opposition.
In the meantime, Mrs May has asked Oliver Robbins, her chief Brexit official, to use the extra time to target ministers most opposed to the plan and pressure them into backing it.
Minister reportedly rejected the “customs arrangement” last week, after Sajid Javid became Home Secretary and tipped the balance by replacing his more pro-EU predecessor Amber Rudd.
Mr Johnson and others, including Michael Gove, are advocating the alternative so-called “maximum facilitation” model, which would optimize technology and “trusted traders” to remove the need for physical checks, including on the Irish border.