Today the House of Commons debates a motion that the UK should stay in the EU Customs Union, even if we actually leave the EU. Staying in the customs union will have two massive advantages and one small one. The big ones are:
- there will be no need for customs checks at the entry and exit ports (Dover/Calais; Folkstone/Boulogne etc ) so no costly delays, massive lorry-parks, tailbacks on the M20
- blessedly, no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
- the UK's exporters will not have to pay the common external tariff (customs duty) on goods to be sold in the EU. Although not exactly negligible, this is a small factor compared with inconvenience and cost of extra paperwork, inspections and delays.
- the UK would still be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for the resolution of trade disputes;.
- the UK would be unable to negotiate its own trade deals with countries outside the EU but would have to accpt the collective deals negotiated by the EU.
The second objection is a Brexiteer fantasy (Yesterday the Guardian called it a "sham"). It is a nonsense to think that the UK, with our relatively small market of about 65 million people, could negotiate better deals than the mighty EU with its market nearly ten times the size. And if we did, it would undoubtedly be on the foreigners' terms (chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef from the US, for example.)
So I look forward to a vote in favour of this motion today. It will not bring down the government because they are playing obscure parliamentary games. The Tories have imposed only a two line whip, so Tory MPs don't need to be there to vote against if they can find something better to do, and it is a "motion" not legislation.
Nevertheless a vote in favour will be a significant step in exposing the folly of the government's ideological and unnecessary "Hard Brexit" position and will be an opportunity for MPs to tihnk for themselves and vote for what they believe rather than toe the party line.
Of course, remaining in the Customs Union is a small step compared with remaining in the Single Market, which incudes most services (very important to Britain). For the practical advantages to businesses of the single Market see this powerful expose of the difficulties of being outside the Single market as recounted by this small manufacturer.a Natalie Milton
Of course, the most sensible thing to do would be to forget about Brexit, apologise for the time we've wasted, remain in the EU and get on with tackling our real problems (inequality, housing, tax evasion and avoidance, health service, racism, and impotent local government, to name but some.)