Thursday 17 January 2019

UK leaving customs union 'reckless and dangerous'

British Labour MP Chuka Umunna Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
British Labour MP Chuka Umunna Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Colm Kelpie

A cross-party committee of MPs has warned the UK government that the only way to avoid a hard border is to stay in the customs union and single market.

A report by the UK's All Party Parliamentary Group on EU Relations said that a total commitment to the customs union is in the national interest.

Leaving the customs union would be a "reckless and economically dangerous self-inflicted wound", the report noted.

"The lack of customs checks at the Border is crucial to the economy of Northern Ireland and the Republic alike, and the lack of border posts has profound historical significance.

"The government's assertion that Britain can leave the customs union and abandon EU-wide product standards, yet still eliminate the need for goods to be checked at the border between the UK and the EU, lacks credibility.

"It is increasingly clear that the only certain way to avoid a hard border is to remain in the customs union and the single market."

In a foreword to the report, joint chairs Chuka Umunna of Labour, and Anna Soubry of the Conservatives, said expert analysis suggests leaving the customs union could cause a £25bn (€27bn) annual hit to the UK economy, adding billions in costs to companies and increasing the number of firms forced to make customs declarations by 128pc.

"The hasty choice to leave the customs union, and the lack of realism and preparation regarding alternatives, increases the chances that we could face a crash into chaos and confusion," they said.

Read More: Plummeting pound will spark retail war - but homegrown shops struggle

On Twitter, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney described it as a "timely and interesting report outlining the case for UK staying in the customs union - big issue for Ireland north and south".

It comes as German newspapers described the UK's Brexit strategy as "clueless".

The 'Suddeutsche Zeitung' accused UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her team of a "stumble cluelessly into Brexit".

Meanwhile, central banks should be ready to inject cash into the financial markets to keep them stable after Britain leaves the European Union in 2019, a draft report from a bank industry lobby said.

The Association for Financial Markets in Europe, in a report seen by Reuters, said that regulators, central banks and national governments should continue to support financial market stability between Brexit and the start of new trading terms.

Irish Independent

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