Deal or no Deal?

The Government has hedged its bets with the release of two White Papers, which inform the EU negotiations; one on trade and one a new customs union. The UK’s strategic objectives are: (a) frictionless UK-EU trade, (b) no hard border with Ireland and (c) an independent international trade policy. Two options are set out for a negotiated customs agreement: (1) a ‘highly streamlined customs arrangement’ – a formal structure, but with low requirements and costs, and (2) a ‘new customs partnership’ – an innovative approach, outside a customs union, but with no processes at the border. However, there is an acknowledgement that success on either is not guaranteed: ‘While the government hopes and expects to achieve a negotiated settlement with the EU, it is only prudent that it prepares for every eventuality.’ Such preparedness is likely to involve falling back on WTO rules.