Britain has ruled out membership of the bloc’s custom’s union, at the start of a week of vital talks for the country’s post-EU future.
In a blow to those–including many business leaders–pressing for a so-called “soft” Brexit, the move would mean the UK would lose tariff-free trade within the EU, but would gain the ability to pursue its own deals with other countries.
Today in London, the prime minister and David Davis, the minister charged with heading the negotiations for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, will meet Michel Barnier. The meeting heralds the start of the next, crucial, round of talks between the two sides, and Barnier said of the juncture there was “not a moment to lose,” given the deep divisions that persist both within the UK cabinet and between London and Brussels.
For the first time, talks will focus on the transitional period expected to be observed after Britain has officially left the EU early next year. An important aspect thrown into question by today’s announcement are the rights of EU citizens. Freedom of movement (of both people and goods) are a pre-requisite of the customs union.
Theresa May’s announcement does little to clarify the country’s future relationship with the EU, its largest trading partner, and raises renewed uncertainty over the sensitive status of Northern Ireland’s border arrangements.