The new Government paper, the first of a series to be published on key negotiation issues for its departure from the EU, sets out the details of operating a proposed “temporary customs union” after Brexit in March 2019.
This includes a “highly streamlined” customs arrangement between the UK and the EU that is as “frictionless as possible”. It would aim to continue some existing arrangements the UK has with the EU, reduce or remove barriers to trade through new arrangements, and adopt technology-based solutions to make it easier for businesses to comply with customs procedures.
However, the paper said the length of the interim period "needs further consideration".
Critical building block
Secretary of State for exiting the EU, David Davis, said the way the UK approaches the movement of goods across the border will be a “critical building block for our independent trade policy”.
“The approaches we are setting out today will benefit both the EU and UK and avoid a cliff-edge for businesses and individuals on both sides”, he said.
“An interim period would mean businesses only need to adjust once to the new regime and would allow for a smooth and orderly transition.”
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond added: “Our proposals are ambitious, and rightly so. They set out arrangements that would allow UK businesses to continue to trade with their European partners in the future, while expanding their markets beyond the EU.”
Step in the right direction
The ALMR has welcomed the Government’s document – citing it as a “step in the right direction” and a “positive start”.
"The Government's proposals are positive signs that the views of businesses have been heard and acted upon,” said ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls.
“Should such a transition prove achievable, it would deliver a more stable, extended period during which hospitality and other businesses can address the changes caused by Brexit.”
Nicholls said a dialogue with businesses will be “crucial” in developing the right free-trade deals to take us out of a transitional period.
Listened to concerns
Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) chief executive Miles Beale has also welcomed the proposals.
“[The Government’s] proposals represents a start in describing what it wants post-Brexit, including our exit from the Customs Union and - crucially - interim arrangements,” he said.
“The WSTA has maintained all along that the preservation of historic flows of wine and spirits in and out of the EU and ensuring tariff- and quota-free access to the EU market - is essential.
“This means no "cliff edge" for businesses, a clear new trading relationship with the EU and sensible interim arrangements.”
Beale said he was glad the Government had “listened to the industry’s concerns”, and will continue working with ministers and officials to keep Britain’s wine and spirit trade flowing.
Clock will still be ticking
“But it’s also important to recognise that no specific time limit for an interim deal has been spelled out and that this is only a UK Government proposal for now,” he continued.
“And, as the paper points out, it will need to be agreed with EU partners.
“Even with a welcome temporary deal in place, the clock will still be ticking.”