At last, on Friday 8 December following months of discussion it is agreed that EU-UK Brexit negotiations have made sufficient progress to ….wait for it…. move on to phase 2 to talk about the detail.In EU negotiating terms it’s not even last minute, a full 2 days before the EU-self imposed deadline for progress!
Prime Minister May lives to fight another day with the hard work kicked into the future, but at least there is some movement, forwards, we think. The alternative of failure to get agreement to move beyond this phase at the next EU summit would likely have spelled the end of her premiership.
In the 15 page, 96 paragraph document phase 1 issues of citizens rights, the Irish border , the “divorce bill” , European Bank, legal framework amongst others are covered with the proviso stated clearly that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed“.
Our focus here is on the Customs aspect of the document. Key points for information on Customs:
- There will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. A firm guarantee is made. No physical infrastructure or border controls.
- Recognition of Ireland’s place in the Customs Union and the unique geography or the island.
- A separate strand of negotiation will be created to focus on Ireland, particular mention of focus on Transit arrangements for Ireland/UK
- If no suitable agreement in the future about the Irish border arrangements then UK will “fully align” with the rules of the Customs Union.
- Even with no suitable agreement there will be no barriers between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland.
- UK and EU will work together to maintain the integrity of the Customs Union
The full document can be read here: https://goo.gl/KdXnau
Everyone with an interest in Customs will want to know what’s behind the meaning of “fully aligning” with the rules of the Customs Union. Despite Teresa May’s statement in January 2017 that the UK would leave the Customs Union and Single Market in March 2019 it seems there is now a lot of wriggle room on this point. We could well be in the very same Customs Union as today just by a different name. What that means in a practical Customs clearance sense we do not know.
Donald Tusk has made clear the next priority for the EU is to agree the duration and nature of a transition arrangement early next year , expected to be around 2 years – 2019 to 2021. So settle in for a few more years of this.
On that note we will leave you on our favourite Matt cartoon which we think may have a few outings before 2021.
Clearlight Customs provide business support on all matters related to Customs compliance. Contact us on 01283 553099 for helpful, friendly and practical advice.