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UK's Brexit trade stance is madness without method
The UK's first Brexit position paper, on the customs union, amounted to an exploration of the use of definite and indefinite articles. The UK wants to leave the customs union only to remain a member of a customs union.

The difference is easy to spot: everything stays exactly the same apart from the way in which the new customs union gives Liam Fox, the UK trade secretary, something to do, namely to negotiate trade deals with other countries - something that will be permitted by a customs union but is against the law in the customs union.

This is definitely madness without method. Why would the European Union agree to this?

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A similar theme emerges in the paper that grapples with the Border. Again, the British position is that nothing will change on the day of Brexit: the Border, from their perspective, will remain exactly as it is today with complete freedom of movement of both goods and people.

This approach allows the British to claim that if anything goes wrong, it won't be their fault. Any problem at the Border will be the consequence of Brussels and Dublin putting up obstacles.

It would be a mistake to dismiss this as an empty threat. Just imagine the day after Brexit - particularly the rock-hard variety, the one that involves the UK crashing out without a deal. Imagine the British living up to their promise: no border controls, no customs checks, no change at all.

As a matter of EU law, all of the infrastructure necessary to police this new customs frontier between the EU and the rest of the world would have to be placed on the Irish side of the Border.

Think about that for a second and appreciate the ironies, the discomfort and the expense. All of the border checks inside the Republic. Nothing on the UK side.

Somebody in Whitehall is willing to bet that the Government will put pressure on Brussels to compromise, to do anything to avoid this outcome. Have the British finally discovered some negotiating leverage?

The answer is no. The Irish Government will insist on implementing customs controls where it already has the infrastructure - at air and sea ports. Trade within the island of Ireland by private individuals and small businesses will essentially proceed unhindered. The big players - Guinness, Baileys, Tesco et al will have to declare their imports as they do their Vat returns - and pay tariffs accordingly.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 20th, 2017 at 09:31:41 PM EST

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