Liam Fox rules out UK staying in any form of customs union with EU after Brexit
2 February 2018
Liam Fox has ruled out the possibility of Britain staying in any form of customs union with the EU after Brexit.
The International Trade Secretary said being part of a formal customs union was not “compatible” with having an independent trade policy with the freedom to negotiate deals around the world.
His comments will cheer Eurosceptics who have insisted that being part of any form of customs union would thwart Brexit.
Speaking at a Chinese-UK business forum in Shanghai, Dr Fox told Bloomberg TV: “It is very difficult to see how being in a customs union is compatible with having an independent trade policy because we would therefore be dependent on what the EU negotiated in terms of its trading policies and we’d be following behind that.
“We have to be outside of that to take advantage of those growing markets. One of the reasons we are leaving the European Union is to take control and that’s not possible with a common external tariff.”
Official Government policy is to leave the customs union and negotiate a bespoke trade deal with the EU that allows for free movement of goods and services.
However a customs bill that will be presented to Parliament allows for Britain to part of “a customs union”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the European Research Group of 60 Eurosceptic Tory MPs, has threatened to table an amendment to the bill if the clause allowing for membership of a customs union is not removed.
Turkey is currently a party to the EU customs union despite being outside the EU, but the deal forces it to accept goods from countries such as South Korea on EU trade terms without being able to sell goods in the opposite direction on terms that are as favourable.
On the question of Mrs May’s leadership, Dr Fox said: “Theresa May’s middle name is resilience. And that’s exactly what she’s showing and I do wish more people could have seen the commitment she was showing to Britain’s national interest on this trip to China.”