May in Germany Pleads with Merkel to Back ‘Soft Brexit’ Customs Union Plan

Merkel May
Sean Gallup/Getty

Theresa May has arrived in Germany for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel in an attempt to persuade her to back a new “third way” Brexit plan to keep the UK tied to the bloc’s trade rules.

The Prime Minister hopes the new “facilitated customs arrangement” (FCA) proposal, which would see the UK collect customs tariffs on behalf of the European Union (EU), will help keep the Irish border open.

However, Brussels sources have already rejected it outright.

Mrs May aims to keep many current trade arrangements in place, after threats from big business – allegedly encouraged by her government – whilst also controlling open borders and unlimited mass migration from the bloc in some way.

She hopes the plan will allow the UK to set its own tariffs on goods arriving in Britain, and then technology will be utilised to determine where they are destined for and if the UK or EU tariffs should be paid on them, the BBC reports.

At a press conference just after midday, the Chancellor said that whilst the unelected European Commission is dealing with Brexit, there were “a number of issues that we would like to discuss here bilaterally” with the Prime Minister.

She added that she wanted “Germany and the United Kingdom to continue to be close partners” after Brexit.

Mrs May said she was “looking forward to putting together proposals for our departure from the EU that will be good for both the United Kingdom and the remaining members”, highlighting the crunch cabinet meeting Friday.

However, Chancellor Merkel has previously insisted the bloc’s “four freedoms” including open borders cannot be compromised if the UK wants free access to trade with the bloc.

Speaking in Dublin in March, she said: “Access to the single market can only be possible on the condition of respecting the four basic freedoms. Otherwise one has to talk about limits to access.

“These negotiations cannot be based on cherry-picking, because that would have disastrous consequences for the other 27 member states.”

Brexit secretary David Davis reportedly sent Mrs May a letter Wednesday night warning her the FCA plan is certain to be rejected and calling on her to stick to her promises to leave the bloc’s Customs Union.

Under previous “customs partnership” plans pushed by the Prime Minister, EU tariffs on goods would have been collated at the UK border and then claimed back if the goods are for the domestic market and the UK has lower fees.

The UK would also be forced to maintain “full regulatory alignment” with Brussels rules on goods to meet their demands for an open Irish border.

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