European Union customs ‘backstop’ should not continue beyond 2021, ministers agree

Michel Barnier

The document published on Thursday states that "the United Kingdom expects the future arrangement to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest".

But the government is struggling to find a way to fulfil this commitment while sticking to its plan to leave the EU's single market and customs union after Brexit. We will examine it with 3 questions: is it a workable solution to avoid a hard border?

The idea of the backstop is controversial with eurosceptics, who fear it will keep Britain tied to the EU's rules for years after it leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019.

She added: "I have been clear about the issue of the customs union and why I think it's important that we are not in a customs union in the future but also I have set out - and this is what we are working towards - our objectives in terms of the future customs arrangement we have with the EU which is the "no hard border" between Ireland and Northern Ireland, as frictionless trade as possible between the United Kingdom and EU and able to pursue an independent trade policy which is important for that bright future". "Is it an all-weather backstop?" he said.

Brexit secretary was said to be furious and prepared to quit over the issue.

"There are a range of options for how a time limit could be delivered, which the United Kingdom will propose and discuss with the European Union", the government said in a document laying out its negotiating position.

The UK has rejected the EU's proposal - that Northern Ireland remain aligned with European Union rules for a period - saying it would effectively create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

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She added: "We expect that the end-state customs arrangement at the latest will be in by December 2021 and we will be working to make sure that it is in earlier than that".

Allies of the Brexit Secretary hailed the inclusion of a date as a victory, but the language is not thought to be legally enforceable.

He may have saved face after making a huge fuss but look carefully at the concession he won, they say, and it doesn't really mean very much.

Brexiteers are concerned that if the United Kingdom is tied into an open-ended customs arrangement with the EU it will prevent it from developing its own trade policy and the United Kingdom would remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Liam Fox told the BBC: "As everybody knows from the referendum, opinions and feelings run high on this issue but we've shown we can reach an agreement civilly and collectively".

Just over a quarter of respondents said that they used to support staying in the United Kingdom but may or would now back joining the Republic of Ireland due to the Brexit vote. Brussels has said that any end date would be unacceptable.

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