Monday 20 August 2018

Chaotic UK crash-out looms if border solution can't be reached

The Brexit transition deal is a concession from the EU-27 and is conditional on certain issues being resolved, writes Colm McCarthy

OPPOSING VIEWS: Leo Varadkar and Theresa May side by side at Downing Street — but their aims are divergent
OPPOSING VIEWS: Leo Varadkar and Theresa May side by side at Downing Street — but their aims are divergent
Colm McCarthy

Colm McCarthy

The Brexit debate in the British media and the House of Commons this last week has been confusing, particularly the stuff about solving the Irish border problem through UK willingness to stay in the EU's customs union. Some people seem to think (a) the UK can unilaterally opt to stay inside the customs union and (b) that this would be enough to solve the problems about the land border in Ireland. They are mistaken on both counts.

Theresa May's 'red lines' since early last year have included the UK's departure from the customs union and the single market. With the despatch of the UK's resignation letter to Brussels 13 months ago an inexorable process was set in motion.

It is not legally possible for the United Kingdom to 'stay in the customs union', whether to help solve the Irish border problem or for any other purpose. The UK leaves the European Union on March 29 next year and leaves the customs union on the same date, since membership of the customs union is an adjunct of EU membership.

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