European Union customs 'backstop' should not continue beyond 2021, ministers agree

European Union customs 'backstop' should not continue beyond 2021, ministers agree

The option emerged after the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier rejected key elements of May's backstop plan for the Irish border.

Prime Minister Theresa May declined to say Wednesday when the government would publish a promised document setting out its negotiating position.

This will see the UK retain parts of the EU's customs union in the event of a wider UK-EU agreement finding no solution to the issue; but Brexiteers had become concerned as to whether the proposal would truly be "time-limited", as promised.

"A backstop that is temporary is not a backstop, unless the definitive arrangement is the same as the backstop", he said.

The EU backstop option has been rightly criticised for reducing the single market "access of Northern Ireland to ... goods, including agricultural and electricity".

Lord Malloch-Brown, a former United Nations deputy secretary general, said the "chronic uncertainty" surrounding Brexit talks was harming business and it was "time to settle this once and for all". "We are happy and ready to step up the frequency of our negotiations".

"I've always been clear that this was time-limited and as we've said today [Thursday] the end state at the latest will be in by the end of 2021 and we will be working to ensure that it is in earlier than that".

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But with major sticking points over the Northern Irish land border with the Republic of Ireland and over a future agreement for financial services, some British officials have suggested the outlines of a deal will not be announced until later in the year.

Brexiteers accused the Prime Minister of giving the document regarding Northern Ireland to Cabinet supporters before more hardline advocates of European Union withdrawal like Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, according to The Times. The UK would also be bound by some parts of the EU's Common Commercial Policy (CCP), meaning it would be required to apply the EU's common external tariff (CET) and Union Customs Code at the UK border.

And he questioned whether Mrs May's proposals would deliver an "all-weather backstop" fit for all circumstances.

"Does the temporary nature of the customs arrangement mean that several adaptations will now be needed?"

The paper was issued after Mr Davis was believed to have insisted the United Kingdom should be able to unilaterally withdraw from any border agreement to maintain leverage with Brussels in negotiations. "We need regulatory alignment to avoid a hard border".

The comments followed speculation at Westminster that Mr Davis had considered quitting over a dispute regarding backstop proposals on how to deal with the issue of the Northern Ireland border if a preferred withdrawal trade deal is not sorted out with the EU.

The campaign, Best For Britain, is urging British lawmakers to force a referendum on the deal - which is still to be secured by Prime Minister Theresa May with the European Union officials - before the country formally leaves the bloc.

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