Tuesday 23 January 2018

UK 'to seek deal' after customs union exit

Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan meets James Brokenshire at Iveagh House
Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan meets James Brokenshire at Iveagh House
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Britain's Northern Ireland secretary has said the UK will leave the customs union, and then seek either to negotiate an associate membership, or a bespoke customs deal.

Ahead of a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, James Brokenshire said he did not want to see tariffs or barriers to trade being put in place for UK businesses.

"We are leaving the European Union. As the prime minister clearly articulated, we come out of everything, and we have to negotiate new arrangements to govern our relationship as a nation state outside of the European Union," he told the Irish Independent. "But wanting to have the closest possible ties and arrangements with our European partners. That's why we talk about a bespoke customs agreement, or associate membership of a customs union. It is that changed status that we would have by not being a continuing EU member state."

Mr Brokenshire also moved to play down fears that the Good Friday Agreement could be threatened by UK plans to enact a Bill of Rights and reports that the British government wants to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights. Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan flagged those concerns at a Brexit event on Monday.

"Whilst we might be leaving the European Union, we're not leaving the European Convention on Human Rights," Mr Brokenshire said.

"Whilst, yes, we have said that we would like to see a British Bill of Rights, I've also been very clear that anything we do must be conscious of and consistent with our obligations under the Belfast Agreement and its successors."

Meanwhile, a leaked document drawn up by the European Parliament's legal affairs committee suggests EU states could take revenge for Brexit by kicking out more than a million expats, a Brussels report has warned. The internal document says member states will be responsible for deciding whether British citizens can continue living in their respective countries after 2019.

The fact that it appears to be particularly difficult for foreign nationals, even if married to UK nationals or born in the UK, to acquire permanent residence status or British nationality may colour member states' approach to this matter.

The warning comes amid a row over reciprocal rights for EU citizens in the UK and Britons living on the continent.

It has led to British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to accuse the prime minister of a "Hunger Games approach to Brexit" by refusing to guarantee EU nationals can stay. Theresa May has complained that the bloc's leaders - including Germany's Angela Merkel - are blocking an immediate deal to reassure people they will not be displaced.

Mrs May has insisted she wants to come to an arrangement as soon as possible after Article 50 is triggered next month and faced demands from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and some Tory backbenchers to offer a unilateral guarantee for European nationals.

Irish Independent

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