May gets new customs idea as party bickers over Brexit

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May’s advisers have come up with a new proposal for handling customs with the EU after Brexit as lawmakers in her party bicker before a crunch meeting of senior ministers on Friday.
With less than nine months left before the country leaves the European Union, little is clear about how trade will flow as May is still trying to produce a customs plan that her divided Conservative Party can agree on.
May, who leads a minority government dependent on the support of a small Northern Irish party, has ruled out staying in the EU customs union, which groups EU members in a duty-free area where there is a common import tariff for non-EU goods.
So far, May’s advisers have come up with two options, neither of which have the full support of her party.
As EU negotiators await the long-delayed proposal from London, the BBC reported that British officials have come up with a third model, though no details were immediately available and May’s office declined to comment on the report.
May will gather the squabbling ministers at her Chequers country residence on Friday for an “away-day” aimed at agreeing the contents of a “white paper” policy document.
“There is going to be a lot of speculation between now and Chequers, some of it might even be true, but I’m not going to engage in it in advance of the away day taking place,” May’s spokesman said when asked about the third option.
Ahead of the away-day, May will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday.
Brussels has poured scorn on both concepts raised so far by the government. Under one, Britain would collect tariffs on imports from outside the bloc on the EU’s behalf. The other would implement a technology-based plan.
Asked whether the white paper would contain a range of policy options or a settled government position, May’s spokesman said: “I would expect it to set out what we want to achieve.”
Under the current timetable, both London and Brussels are working towards a final Brexit deal in October to give enough time to ratify it by Brexit day in March 2019. — Reuters