Brexit: EU's Barnier says customs union idea 'interesting'

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Brexit: EU’s Barnier says customs union idea ‘interesting’

Deutsche Welle

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Brexit: EUs Barnier says customs union idea interesting
Brexit: EU’s Barnier says customs union idea ‘interesting’. Reuters/F. Lenoir
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The European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday appeared to welcome the idea of a customs union arrangement with Britain.

In a letter to May, UK opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union” with the EU.

Corbyn’s suggestion appears to envisage Britain being part of a separate customs union, rather than part of the EU Customs Union (EUCU) itself. How this would be established or agreed upon in a matter of weeks is not clear.

The Labour leader envisages common external tariffs on goods from the rest of the world.

It also aims for Britain to have a say in future trade deals made by the EU.

Barnier’s comments came ahead of his meeting with the UK’s chief negotiator, Stephen Barclay, for an update on how British Prime Minister Theresa May intends to win parliamentary support for a withdrawal agreement.

While Barnier did not engage with Corbyn’s plan in detail on Monday, he said the idea was “interesting in tone and substance.”

“Something has to move on the British side,” Barnier told reporters in Luxembourg, where he had been meeting Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.

Read more: Worried about Brexit, Brits stockpile food, supplies

The EU has several bilateral customs union arrangements outside the EUCU, such as with Andorra and Turkey.

Brussels has said it will not renegotiate the deal as it stands, although it might be open to changes if May agrees to shift some of her “red lines.” However, May — who has suggested talks to build more cross-party support for a withdrawal agreement — appeared to dismiss Corbyn’s proposal.

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