Customs and Trade papers signal a shift away from pragmatism, says UK Chamber

The Government’s white papers on the future of Customs and Trade after Brexit have been eagerly awaited but make somewhat disappointing reading, the UK Chamber of Shipping has said today. 

The papers were published on Monday following a statement by Prime Minister Theresa May to the House of Commons, in which she said the UK could “prove the doomsayers wrong” on the matter of Brexit.

It is the Customs paper that has greater implications for the UK Chamber’s members, particularly for ports and the RoRo shipping trade. In the paper, the Government acknowledges the unique problem that new Customs arrangements pose for the RoRo sector and identifies scenarios for which industry can plan its own responses.

The UK Chamber favours a new and unique Customs agreement between the UK and EU, the first option outlined in the 'Future Customs Arrangement' paper of 15th August. This is preferential to the second option outlined in the August paper, known as “highly streamlined” arrangements. A new agreement that mimics existing Customs arrangements would also lessen the need for a transitional period.

“This paper explains the need for primary legislation to enact a 'new Customs' approach and therefore limits its proposal to the 'highly streamlined' approach,” explains Matthew Wright, Brexit advisor for the UK Chamber.

“But in doing so, the Treasury appears resigned to not delivering a new, innovative Customs partnership. Accepting the need for new Customs controls contradicts the Department for International Trade’s wish to ‘rebuild momentum for trade liberalisation’.

“This represents a significant shift in direction and is potentially a game-changer if the option for a new Customs agreement has been taken off the table.” 

The Trade white paper also suggests that the UK will rely on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to provide the framework to facilitate international trade. The UK Chamber is weighing up the implications of reverting to WTO rules, recalling the onerous rounds of negotiations in which the industry was involved in the past. 

The UK Chamber will be making a submission to the Government’s consultation on the papers by early November. 

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For more information contact:

Matthew Wright

Policy Advisor (Brexit)

020 7417 2834

mwright@ukchamberofshipping.com