Anti-Brexit MPs and Peers are yet again using the Customs Union to try and keep Britain tied to the EU’s economic structures. A majority in the House of Lords, the Labour Party and several pro-EU Tory MPs want the Government to negotiate a Customs Union with the EU, to replicate our current position inside the EU Customs Union.
Staying in a Customs Union with the EU would force Britain to continue applying tariffs on non-EU imports, with the revenue going into EU coffers. In 2016, 54% of our imports, or £243 billion worth of goods, came from outside the EU. This proportion will drastically increase once we Leave the Customs Union, as our markets have been artificially geared towards Europe during our membership of the EU.
In the fiscal year 2016/2017, the United Kingdom collected £3.3 billion in customs duty receipts. As the UK is applying the EU’s external tariff, 80% of this goes into the EU’s budget, as one of its primary sources of revenue. As an average, this represents a huge £50 million which British consumers contribute to the EU’s inflated spending plans. This is on top of the £350 million we send to the EU every week as our gross contribution.
Leaving the Customs Union will allow us to reduce tariffs on goods coming from countries around the globe. It will be the decision of the British Government – not the EU – which tariffs we reduce or abolish.
The British Government may decide to maintain tariffs on certain goods which are of strategic importance to our economy. Outside the Customs Union, the revenue from these tariffs will go directly to the British Government, to be spent on British priorities.
It is likely the Government will want to reduce tariffs on goods such as food, clothing and footwear, which are currently subject to significant import duties in the Customs Union. These goods form a considerable proportion of the weekly expenditure of working people. A reduction in tariffs on these goods would make these essential items more affordable, resulting in a tangible Brexit benefit for ordinary working people.
Of course, the great benefit of Leaving the Customs Union is the ability to sign our own free trade deals with countries around the world. The EU is a shrinking market as a percentage of world trade – 90% of global economic growth in the near future is expected to come from outside the EU, so Brexit will afford us the opportunity to share in this growth.
New research by German think tank Bertelsmann Stiftung has revealed 76% of British people believe international trade has positive effects – a far higher proportion than many other developed countries. This reflects the broad belief across Britain in the need for Ministers to get on with Brexit, including Leaving the Customs Union and signing our own free trade deals.
Many countries have expressed interest in negotiating trade agreements with the UK, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Just last week, the Prime Minister of Canada confirmed his intention to negotiate a free trade deal to come into force from 2021. Justin Trudeau said he wanted to open talks with Britain “the day after” Brexit. These countries have made clear staying in a Customs Union with the EU would prevent the signing of any new free trade deals.
The truth is the proposal to maintain our Customs Union with the EU is a disgraceful ploy by Remain campaigners to limit the economic opportunities of Brexit and make staying in the EU seem more appealing. Nearly 2 years on from the decision of the British people to Leave the EU, Europhile politicians are still attempting to reverse Brexit.
Staying in a Customs Union while outside the political institutions of the EU is the worst of both worlds. We would be forced to impose EU tariffs, with the revenue destined for the EU budget, but without any political representation. We would also be unable to forge a new global trading strategy for British exporters by signing new free trade deals. To maximise our economic opportunities, we must make sure we Get Britain Out of the Customs Union – with no compromises forced upon us.