Johnson Suggests UK Might Stay in EU’s Customs Union Until 2021

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Newly elected British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the Conservative Leadership announcement at the QEII Centre on July 23, 2019 in London, England. After a month of hustings, campaigning and televised debates the members of the UK's Conservative and Unionist Party have voted for …
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson still believes he can strike a deal with EU over Brexit, but has suggested that the UK may be in the bloc’s Customs Union and Single Market for another “couple of years” after the October 31st Brexit date.

While the new prime minister has departed from his predecessor by ramping up and prioritising preparations for a no deal, Mr Johnson still maintains the belief that the UK can agree an exit treaty with the EU that removes the contentious backstop.

In comments reported by The Sun on Tuesday, Mr Johnson suggested that there may be a “stand-still” agreement with the EU where the UK stays in regulatory alignment with the supranational bloc until late 2021.

During his visit to Wales, as part of his tour of the four nations of the United Kingdom, the prime minister said: “Some of the (No Deal) changes that are going to be necessary in the run-up to October 31 will be crucial anyway if we are going to come out of the Customs Union and Single Market, as we must, in the course of the next couple of years.”

A Whitehall source later confirmed to the Daily Mail that the prime minister was outlining a scenario where he is able to secure a new deal with the EU “with an implementation period”.

The source added: “In the past there was a lot of money for No Deal which would have been written off if we had got the former PM’s deal because it was very close to the Customs Union and Single Market.

“Now we are looking at something much more like Canada plus, so we will need a new customs regime and so on regardless because our future relationship will be much looser.”

The Telegraph reports that under this proposed plan, the “transition period”, which could involve additional payments to the EU, would be extended to give time to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU, but that there would be no backstop.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage warned that the comments reveal the beginning of “the watering down of Boris’s Brexit”, while Leave supporter and economist Andrew Lilico commented: “Pro-Brexit folk shouldn’t be any more worried about this than they were about Boris before. He’s simply repeating his longstanding plan for a new deal with a new transition period.”

However, the EU has maintained that it would not reopen negotiations and Mr Johnson recently insisted that he would not sit down with European leaders in Brussels, Paris, or Berlin to discuss Brexit until they signalled they were open to removing the Irish backstop, which threatens to lock the UK in regulatory alignment with the bloc permanently.

In a telephone call with the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar on Tuesday, Mr Johnson demanded he “abolish the backstop” and repeated his public pledge that the UK was coming out of the EU on October 31st “no matter what”.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, who is charged with overseeing Brexit preparations, has said that the government “must operate on the assumption” that Brussels will not renegotiate the deal and the UK will leave in a clean break.

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