The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged the government to rethink whether the UK should remain in a customs union with the EU.
Carolyn Fairbairn, head of the CBI said that there had been a “lack of clarity” around ongoing talks about the future of trade between the UK and the EU. She said in a talk at Warwick University that a customs union would be the best outcome for UK economic growth.
What does a customs union mean for the UK?
Being part of a customs union means that once goods have cleared customs in one country, they can then be sent off to other countries within the union without the sender being faced with extra tariffs.
This is obviously big news for businesses who rely on exports as there currently isn’t a clear plan for how the UK will manage exports and trade relations.
Ms Fairbairn is urging the government to make progress on a transitional EU trade deal by April.
However, Theresa May has already rejected a full membership of the customs union because this could become a barrier to the UK creating its own post-Brexit trade deals.
Currently, the UK’s Department for Exiting the EU said Brussels has an “ambitious free trade approach” to negotiations.
A spokesperson said: “We are confident of negotiating a deep and special economic partnership that includes a good deal for financial services – that will be in the EU’s best interests, as well as ours.”
CBI faces criticism
The CBI said that while this isn’t their official position on Brexit, they felt the need to speak out about the problems of the government’s approach to Brexit.
A spokesperson said: “It’s not for us to say [whether to reverse Brexit], we are simply pointing out that you need single market access and you need a customs union. If someone concludes that we therefore need to retest this, that’s a political decision, we are just being very practical about it.”
However, some government ministers have hit back at the claim that we need the customs union. Boris Johnson said: “Staying in the customs union means effectively staying in the EU. The EU is a customs union. It means no new free trade deals, no new export opportunities, and no leading role in the WTO.”
Do you think the UK should remain within the customs union? Or would you prefer a separate post-Brexit deal? Let us know your thoughts.