Rutte urges for clarity while May braces for Customs compromise

Rutte urges for clarity while May braces for Customs compromise


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The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte urged his British counterpart to provide more clarity, ahead of a White Paper she is due to release on Friday.

“We urgently need clarity about every aspect of the future relationship between the EU and UK and we are working very hard to achieve it,” Rutte said.

Theresa May is due to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday. in the countdown to the release a White Paper on Brexit on Friday.

In her visit to the Hague, May was once again confronted with a sense of urgency, as the UK has yet to come with a viable proposal on how it envisages its future trade partnership with the EU, an issue also linked to the Irish border.

All EU member states are also concerned about the future of their trade relations with the UK. Last year the Republic of Ireland exported €65bn of goods and services to the UK; the Netherlands exported €22,7bn, equivalent to 3.1% of GDP. For the German industry too, the UK is also a key market.

British media is speculating that May is planning a compromise that would allow for a customs partnership on goods, but not on services. The plan could also offer concessions on the free movement of labour.

The plan is branded as “the best of two worlds” rather than pro-having cake and eating it.

Brexiteer in chief Rees Mogg has already made clear that such arrangement would be “deeply unsatisfactory” and is seen as leading resistance to her compromise plan.

In an article to the Daily Telegraph published on Tuesday, the former Conservative leader William Hague urged euroskeptics to endorse the compromise or risk a parliamentary revolt leading to a vote to stay in the Customs Union.

Leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market appears now politically impossible to achieve.

A solution in which the UK collects duties on behalf of the EU but is not a full member of the Single Market was undermined by Her Majesty’s Revenue Collection (HMRC) service, as it set a price tag on the venture of £20bn a year.

The technology-heavy maximum facilitation (MaxFac) plan has been dismissed as utopian in Brussels and at home, with many doubting its practicality.  Meanwhile, according to some estimates, a Canada-style agreement that is offered by Brussels could see the UK economy decelerate by 5% and 2% in the Eurozone.

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