Availability of goods: the latest government position paper

The third Government Brexit position paper was published on 21st August and covers the complex subject of the continuity in the availability of goods for the EU and the UK.

One of the main priorities of the Brexit negotiations is to ensure that trade between the UK and the EU continues with as little disruption as possible on Brexit day. The report identifies one particular issue which has hitherto received little attention:- what of goods that are in transit in some form or other when Independence Day dawns? To illustrate the point, suppose a customer in Germany or Poland orders an item from a UK company on 28th March 2019 and pays for it on line. On that day, we will still be an EU member state  and part of the Single Market. The UK-produced item will have been produced in compliance with EU standards. What will happen to this item if it arrives in Calais on 29th March 2019 or later? By this time, if there is no satisfactory deal, it could have to pass through an elaborate customs clearance process and if the item is to be used in the manufacture of something bigger, such as a component in a car or a washing machine, will it still be regarded as meeting the EU’s standards on compliance?

Unfortunately, having identified a very real problem, the position paper does not really go into any detail about how the government proposes to tackle it. No one could possibly argue with the first paragraph:-

Investors, businesses and citizens in the UK and across the EU need to be able to plan ahead with certainty. The UK wants to ensure a smooth and orderly exit that minimises disruption to citizens, consumers and businesses across Europe in terms of the availability of goods….

….but a first reading through of this paper left me none the wiser as to what the Government is proposing. The statistics about the volume of UK-EU trade in goods show why it is important to come to a deal on trade in goods. It is one thing to say, as per Paragraph 16 “The UK believes that all goods lawfully placed on the market before exit should continue to circulate freely, without additional requirements or restrictions, ” but quite another to explain what if anything, considering we become a Third Country as far as the EU is concerned on Brexit day,  will replace our Single Market access.

Essentially, we are faced with three options for trade with the EU in the immediate post-Brexit period:-

  • Change tack and seek to join EFTA so that the UK will remain within the European Economic Area – in other words, resurrect the Norway Option/Liechtenstein Compromise, albeit only as an interim position.
  • Revert to WTO rules, perhaps in conjunction with a zero tariff policy, as advocated recently in a paper by Professor Kevin Dowd, published by the Institute of Economic Affairs.
  • Seek a bespoke trade agreement. One paper published earlier this year by the Bruges Group has identified the main subjects on which agreement will need to be reached. The authors claim that if everything is handled competently on both sides, trade will continue to flow smoothly after Brexit.

While each of these three approaches have their supporters and detractors, the people whose opinions really matter are the Government ministers and Civil Servants who will be at the sharp end of negotiations. The biggest disappointment on reading this position paper is that it offered no clue as to which of these three options it is seeking to take. In particular, if it is the third, the EU will have to agree to a lot of things which so far it has shown little inclination towards.

Government position paper – Confidentiality and access to document

The second of two position papers to appear on Monday 21st August covers confidentiality and access to documents upon Brexit.

Compared with trade and the Irish border, this may appear a somewhat esoteric issue. The DExEU website explains that this paper has been produced as a response to the EU’s paper on “Issues relating to the Functioning of the Union Institutions, Agencies and Bodies.” This paper, which can be downloaded here, was produced in July by the EU’s Brexit task force.

Essentially, the two papers seek to ensure that Brexit does not result in confidential information such as sensitive economic data being leaked and also, that UK representatives who worked for the EU and signed confidentiality agreements will still be subject to these agreements on Brexit if they return to the UK. Furthermore, the EU does not expect all of its activities in the UK to be wound up immediately upon Independence Day and wishes to ensure that the UK will continue to guarantee the same level of protection as before. The European Investment Bank is mentioned by name as one institution likely to have a continued presence in the UK at least for a while after March 2019.

The UK Government’s response “recognises the importance of continuing to respect obligations of confidentiality and to protect information exchanged while it was a Member State.” It also acknowledges that UK citizens who worked for the European Institutions remain bound to their confidentiality agreements. It also points out, however, that this desire to maintain confidentiality cuts both ways and calls on the EU to ensure that any confidential documents which originated in the UK will continue to enjoy an equivalent level of protection.

It recognises that an agreement between the two sides will be necessary and the relatively concise nature of both the EU paper and the UK government’s response suggests that coming to an agreement here should be much less fraught and complex than it will regarding other issues, especially those relating to trade.

According to the Guardian, this desire for a reciprocal deal has attracted criticism from transparency campaigners in the UK, who say it may give the government more excuses to hide embarrassing information from the public. This is a fair comment. It would be an opportunity lost if decoupling from the EU was not accompanied by a move to a more open approach to government in the UK.  The piece also points out that this position paper also seeks to provide reassurance for UK staff working at the European Commission, who have been excluded from involvement in some aspects of their work because of concerns that Brexit may compromise their loyalties.

In summary, this paper shows on the one hand that an agreement between the UK and the EU over some subjects should thankfully not be too difficult but at the same time, the relative obscurity of the subject illustrates just how many topics Messrs Davis and Barnier will need to be considering in these talks, if we are to achieve anything like a smooth Brexit.

The proposed alternative to the European Arrest Warrant is not satisfactory

I am afraid that David Davis’s scheme for a new European Arrest Warrant is not at all satisfactory as it stands. Here is the essence of it:

__________

Under the proposal a new “ad hoc” legal commission would replace the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which currently rules on extraditions.

The new panel would have a Supreme Court judge, an ECJ judge and one from a third neutral country to rule on each extradition.

__________

This proposal as it stands is merely cosmetic, and here is why:

Any oversight by a superior body, whether our own Supreme Court or even more so by a new ad hoc mixed legal commission can only see and ensure that the current EAW legislation is applied by the lower courts.

And the main problem is that it is not proposed here to alter the current EAW legislation, which says that prisoners must be surrendered at a bald, unsupported, demand from the requesting State, with no examination by a court of the requested State of evidence of whether there is a serious case to answer or not.

It is – wrongly and wrongfully – ASSUMED by many in Britain that the EU states will all have assembled evidence of guilt and will be “prosecution-ready” before they issue an EAW (as is the normal practice in Britain). Indeed according to the Treaty we are bound to trust them blindly to have done so, under the doctrine of “mutual confidence and recognition”.

Our politicos and legal eagles, not to mention pundits, are still – willfully? – ignoring the fact that the practice in States ruled under the Napoleonic-inquisitorial dispensation is to arrest a suspect FIRST, and only AFTER they have him under lock and key, do they try to build a case and seek evidence against him. This often takes months, while the unfortunate rots in duress vile with no public hearing, as we have seen happen all too often.

This is not – as our own people assume – due to the sloppiness of continentals in applying standards that we in Britain consider to be right and normal; it is the way their system functions normally, and is supposed to function. They do not work to our standards,  but to their own, which are completely different from, indeed alien to, ours.

I have been through the historic reasons, going back 800 years, for this profound difference elsewhere and shall not do so again here.

Whether the grounds for suspecting, and for arresting, a particular person amount to serious evidence of a case to answer, or flimsy evidence that would not stand up to serious scrutiny, or no evidence at all but merely clues, or just a hunch, or even a prejudice, on the part of the investigators, is sorted out in Britain by our Habeas Corpus.

This provides a right for a prisoner to be brought into a public hearing in open court within HOURS or at most a few days after arrest. And there he can demand to be shown the evidence on which he was arrested. He must there be “charged”, and in Britain and other English-speaking nations a charge must be based on hard evidence, already collected, of a case to answer. No right to any such speedy public hearing exists in continental States, where six months, extensible, in prison “pending investigaton” with no public hearing, is considered a normal limit (for many categories of cases, not only extreme terrorism cases), as per the Corpus Juris proposal for a single unified criminal code for all Europe.

Some years ago an attempt by our own government to introduce 42-day detention without charge nor public hearing in terrorist cases was resisted and opposed on principle by none other than David Davis himself, who nobly resigned his seat and stood for re-election on this very point, and was returned again by his electorate who clearly shared his concern to keep our traditional safeguards of the liberty of the subject. Has he forgotten this? How can it have escaped his notice that the EAW as it stands brings in not just six weeks, but six months, in the case of Andrew Symeou eleven months, detention without charge or public hearing?

The European Convention on Human Rights provides no remedy. Its article 6 merely says that a prisoner must have a public hearing within a “reasonable” time after arrest, and the continentals will say that it is “reasonable” for them to take six months to investigate a person and assemble evidence against him of a case to answer.

One solution could be to force the continental States to hold a Habeas Corpus public hearing within hours of receiving a prisoner to show that there is a case to answer, or to release him. We have already seen that this would not be accepted by them for it goes against their whole legal culture. Indeed in 2002 the late Neil McCormick QC MEP presented a motion to the EU Parliament to set up a “Euro-Habeas Corpus” to go with the EAW, but it was overwhelmingly voted down.

So it will have to be our own courts who demand that an EAW, or indeed a warrant received from any foreign State, must be accompanied by evidence of a case to answer which can be examined by a UK court with the power to reject it if considered insufficient. This is what happened before the European Extradition Act of 1989. The delays complained about were largely due to the foreign authorities, who are quite unaccustomed to having to investigate first and arrest after. They prefer to do it the other way round. Under our previous legislation, they had to do it our way. Now we have to do it their way.

At present the UK is forced to conform to the continentals’ yardstick. This flies in the face of Magna Carta (clause 38).  But people on British soil (even if not British citizens) must be entitled to the protection of British laws. This always used to be the case, and it must be restored.

The renewal of border checks will enable the UK to keep out known foreign criminals whose identities have been flagged up to us by foreign authorities. So the garish scare-mongering about “Britain becoming the Costa del crime” and the “honeypot for criminals” argument can be laid to rest.

The practical argument that supporters of the EAW cannot answer is: if no substantial evidence of guilt is collected BEFORE arrest, how can the authorities know that they have got the right person to accuse? Indeed the record of the EAW’s application shows many cases where perfectly innocent people (including even a British judge – Colin Dines!!) were targeted and made to suffer forced transportation and often lengthy imprisonment, thus allowing the truly guilty parties to escape scot-free.

Even if we had our own Supreme Court to oversee the application of the EAW, it can only do so on the basis of the legislation as it stands. However sympathetic it might be towards an obviously innocent victim of a monstrous judicial muddle, or even of persecution on a trumped-up charge, as long as the doctrine of “mutual recognition” remains on our Statute book, the Supreme Court cannot do anything other than apply it. Willy-nilly. Judges in our lower courts have even been embarassed about EAW cases like this, but have been powerless to do anything other than apply the law as it stands. The Supreme Court would be in a like position.

So a reform of the EAW needs to insist that when foreign authorities send us a warrant to arrest someone on British soil, they must also send an indication of the evidence of a prima facie case to answer. Otherwise we cannot prevent them from using the EAW as a tool for fishing expeditions.

A few thoughts on a future UK Defence policy post- Brexit

People are asking a number of questions about UK defence policy, including its priorities, the amount of funding and if the approach is right for current and future needs. Some of the questions asked include:-

  • Has defence spending been affected by the EU “White Elephant”virus, e.g. like huge nuclear power stations and HS2?
  • Why were 2 huge carriers built at a cost of £6.2bn built when there aren’t enough patrol boats for the UK coast?
  • Why are troop numbers being reduced when more are urgently needed?
  • Why is so much being spent on huge new nuclear submarines, which are not used?
  • Is the procurement of expensive equipment being used to buy votes in elections?  – and at the expense of defence capability?

The defence budget currently amounts to £45bn. I believe it cold be spent in a more effective manner. Let us start by looking at current trends and recent events.

Recent events:

  • Afghanistan, Iraq: High altitude precision bombing – no aerial combat
  • Troops on the ground – insufficient to win the peace, relying on US troops, who are not natural country builders
  • Mediterranean: Massive influx of illegal people across the sea into Europe– hopeless response
  • The decline in the numbers of UK combat aircraft: 2006 = 220, 2015 = 149
  • The decline in the total number of UK Troops: 1990 = 120,000, 2017 = 80,000

Areas needing defence capability now:

  • Humanitarian aid
  • Natural disasters
  • Smuggling (all types)
  • Piracy.

Are these concerns being addressed by current defence spending?

During the Cold War, up to 6% of GDP was spent on defence. It is now down to 2% – currently £45bn. It includes the following:-

  • New large Trident submarines – 4, £31bn (£7bn each) with £10bn contingency for overruns
  • New F35, approximate cost £100m to £150m each, 17 ordered already, total expected to be 138, total over £13.8bn
  • New Wildcat helicopters – £26m each, 28 in total
  • New Destroyers: Type 45, current 6 vessels costing £1bn each, speed 35mph, range 7000 miles, more planned
  • Frigates, anti-submarine, type 26: 8 on order, speed 26 knots, range 7000 nmi,
  • Type 31 warships (smaller) : 5 planned to be built
  • New aircraft carriers: 280m (920ft) long, 9 decks, speed 26 knots (30 mph, 49 km/h), range 10,000 miles, troops 250 to 900, crew 769, berths 1600, 40 to 70 aircraft,

It sounds very impressive, but is still a defence cut in real terms. Has our cutting back militarily been a factor behind the Russian annexation of Crimea? – or the refugee influx?  What is more, our defence spending duplicates areas where the American military has similar resources – and vastly more than we  have or are planning to order.

Instead, I am proposing a complementary defence spending approach rather than duplicating the Americans. This would also help developing countries save on their defence spending?

Simpler alternatives – increasing capability

  • Nuclear deterrent: switch to 4 mini submarines, with 2 missiles each, regular 8 hour shifts into North Sea, ability to stay at sea for 4 weeks, operating deep enough not to be spotted from the air. Aim to construct these for £250m to £500m each, saving £29bn in procurement spending
  • Develop an increased ground launched missile capability
  • Develop air launched cruise missiles as well. These would cost around £1.5m each, with a speed of 550 mph and a range of 1550 miles
  • Improve ABM (Anti Ballistic Missile) capability

Total saving with this revised missile programme would be around £25bn

  • Order no more F35s, saving £13.8bn
  • Buy Hawk planes (lightweight fighter) carry up to 3000kg (6600lb), speed 638 mph, range 383 mi (617 km), see if a short take off version can be built – for aircraft carriers, £18 million each, buy 300 Hawks, approximate cost £6bn
  • Buy an additional 50 Wildcat helicopters at a total cost of £1.4bn
  • Buy simplified aircraft carriers, 10 or more. Adopt a creative approach in the specification and leave off the bells and whistles. The vessels should be fast and able to carry 20 aircraft. Ideally, these should cost no more that £250m a piece. Start with answer: flight deck length and width to withstand combat aircraft landing, room for 20 aircraft, crew, up to 200 personnel – troops and/or civilians, lightweight. Blue sky thinking: 4 to 6 hydrofoils, holding up a lattice network of beams, supporting a landing deck and 1 deck for aircraft, speeds up to 70mph (110 km/h), with defensive armaments, and redundancy built in in case of attack. Usual catapult and also arresting wires. There are many other ideas which could be explored here.

Total cost £2.5bn

  • Patrol boats, hydrofoil: 20 fast hydrofoils with armaments, £10m each. Total £200m
  • Landing craft – to deal with the problem of illegals
  • Buy more new Tornadoes (£30m each), new Harriers (£30m each), Jaguars (£15m each) Chinook £15m each) Apache (£15m each). Perhaps turboprop planes for troop transport. Let the Americans buy F35s.
  • Troops: We currently have 80,000 plus 35,000 reservists. We should be aiming for 200,000 troops plus reservists.

Military spending among developing countries is high, e.g. Africa $40bn (Approx £35bn) a year. These valuable funds could be better used for schools, health, transport and the environment. Perhaps the UK could use the increase in aircraft and troops to offer – as a part of overseas aid – help with defence, so that developing country funds can be redirected to more useful ways in building their economies?

In summary

  • Cancelling: 120 more new F35 aircraft purchases, cancelling the new Trident submarine order. Saving £38bn.
  • Buying: 300 Hawk aircraft, 4 mini submarines, increasing full time troop numbers from 80,000 to 200,000, trialling new ideas for lighter and faster aircraft carriers, new fast patrol boats and hydrofoils.

The EU model of wasting funds on useless projects is not a good role model for UK or even European defence. With Brexit, we have an opportunity to liberate the UK from the EU way of thinking and develop a more effective defence capability.

The aim of this article is to highlight possible new ways to approach defence spending which are useful and have an immediate use in the wider world. Copying what the Americans can do with a bigger budget has left huge gaps in our defence capability. The UK’s expertise of winning the war and the peace has been compromised. A more practical approach to defence spending and simpler engineering, can make an improvement both to our own defence and also to our capacity to offer humanitarian assistance.

Hugo van Randwyck

 

Photo by grobertson4

Ireland – The Second Government Brexit position paper

No one wants to return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Even less does anyone, bar a few fanatics, want to return to the days of “the Troubles”. This much is obvious.

Settling the issues relating to what will be the UK’s only land border with the EU has been given a high priority by the EU too. Only yesterday, in response to the first UK government position paper (on customs), the  EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier,  named the Irish question as one of three important issues on which agreement would need to be reached before serious discussions on trade-related issues could begin.

So a mere 24 hours after the position paper on customs, another has appeared which offers us some insights into the Government’s thinking on Ireland.

The paper identifies four priorities:-

  1. Upholding the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement in all its parts
  2. Maintaining the Common Travel Area and associated rights
  3. Avoiding a hard border for the movement of goods
  4. Aiming to preserve North-South and East-West cooperation, including on energy.

As far as the Good Friday Agreement is concerned, the paper points out that it was an agreement between the UK and the Irish Republic rather than the EU. Among other things, it affirmed “the permanent birthright of the people of Northern Ireland, irrespective of Northern Ireland’s constitutional status: to identify themselves and be accepted as British or Irish or both, as they may so choose; to equal treatment irrespective of their choice; and to hold both British and Irish citizenship.”  The UK Government has every intention to preserve this arrangement after Brexit.

The Common Travel Area pre-dated either the UK or the Irish Republic joining the European project. Indeed, Irish citizens have enjoyed special rights in the UK for most of the period since 1922 – a reflection of the strong, historic links between the Irish people and those in the UK. The Common Travel Area in its present form also involves the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, which were never part of the EU. It allowed freedom of movement throughout the area and  allows Irish citizens to vote in the UK’s locla and Parliamentary elections.

Given that the Common Travel Area arrangements have been administered by the governments of the parties involved rather than by the EU and that the EU has been happy about this, the document maintains that there should be no reason why this situation should not continue after Brexit.

The “hard border” issue is likely to prove the most complex. In 1972, the paper informs us, there were 17 HM Customs and Excise boundary posts at the major road crossing points along the 310-mile long Northern Ireland land border and more than 200 other crossings not approved for vehicular traffic.  These have all disappeared but this is the number of potential crossing points which would need to be reinstated if a “hard border” were imposed. No wonder all sides are keen to avoid such a scenario.  Some farmers’ land straddles the border.

The paper recognises that it cannot propose a unilateral solution to the problem of maintaining the free flow of trade across the Irish border. It does, however, point to instances “where the EU has set aside the normal regulations and codes set out in EU law in order to recognise the circumstances of certain border areas.” – including the border between the Greek and Turkish sectors in Cyprus and the Croatia/Bosnia border. At the same time, the paper acknowledges that resolution of this issue “cannot be based on a precedent”. This makes sense for, after all, the EU’s aspiration is for Cyprus to be reunited with both parts of the island in the EU and likewise, Bosnia is a candidate country, even though it is unlikely to be joining the EU any time soon. By contrast, the UK is going in the opposite direction.

The paper also refers to the position paper on customs. Obviously, on the one hand the peoples of the UK and Ireland have an unique relationship, but the Irish Republic is an EU member state and part of the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union.  A solution for customs issues at the Irish border is inevitably going to be linked to wider customs and trade issues which will need to be addressed as part of the Brexit process, but as anyone who has visited the Irish Republic will be very aware, a substantial percentage of the products on sale in supermarkets in Irish towns and cities originate in the UK. It is therefore unsurprising that Irish officials are very concerned about the damage their economy may suffer if no trade and customs agreement is in place on Brexit. Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, expressed a wish that the UK would not actually leave the EU, or if it did, that we would remain within the EEA. Dan Mulhall, the Irish Ambassador to the UK, by contrast, hoped that we would remain inside the Customs Union.

So the  progress towards the “innovative and untested” customs proposals and the possibility of a temporary customs arrangement discussed in the earlier position paper will be followed particularly closely in Dublin. Given that even if the UK government  changes tack and opts for ongoing membership of the EEA, agricultural goods would be outside this arrangement, it will take a lot of hard bargaining on both sides if all goods and services are to enjoy even relatively free access across the Irish border, whatever form that border may take. If it sticks to the proposals outlined in the position paper, there will be a number of areas where agreements on mutual recognition of conformity would have to be signed and time is short.

The North-South East-West cooperation may be a new term to many of us. North-South simply means the Belfast-Dublin axis and East-West refers to the relationship between London and Dublin. In many ways, the various fora such as the British-Irish Council and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference which have been set up under this label are the outworking of the recognition of the  close historic and geographical links between the UK and the Irish Republic. The cooperation has manifested itself in some specific sectors such as energy and the position paper emphasizes the need for the cooperation to continue after Brexit.

With this in mind, the concluding statement that a formal agreement between the EU and the UK on the Irish border issue early in the Brexit negotiations would not mean the end of any dialogue between the UK and the Irish government makes perfect sense. There will be a number of bilateral issues to resolve which do not directly involve the EU as a whole.

As with the position paper on customs, the abiding impression left by this document is that it has identified the issues which need a resolution without offering too much detail as to how they are to be resolved. Unlike the customs paper, however, where failure to reach an agreement would be far more disastrous for the UK than for the EU as a whole, when it comes to Ireland, a crashing out of the EU with no agreement would probably hit them harder than us. The Irish government is well aware of this and we cannot but hope for their sakes as well as ours that it will not be WTO rules on March 30th.

 

Customs: What the Government position paper told us

Today, the Government published its first Brexit position paper, which covers future customs arrangements. It is a short document, only 16 pages long and intended to be a precursor to a White Paper on trade which is scheduled to appear in the autumn.

What does it tell us? Firstly, the Government has been talking to businesses concerned about a “cliff edge” situation on 29th March 2019 and is seeking to ensure that we will end up with  “the freest and most frictionless trade possible in goods between the UK and the EU, and allows us to forge new trade relationships with our partners in Europe and around the world.”

The paper expresses enthusiasm for striking trade deals with “old friends and new allies” – in other words, the Commonwealth nations and the rapidly growing economies of Asia. We can only do this from outside the EU and particularly, outside the Customs Union. It was announced very early after Mrs May took office that we will be leaving the EU’s customs union – in many ways, this was a bit of a non-issue as it was hardly mentioned during the referendum campaign.

The paper recognises  the challenges of establishing a new relationship with the EU. As a short-term transitional measure, what is proposed is in effect a shadow customs union where by the EU will treat the UK as thought it was a member of the customs union. David Davis, interviewed on Radio 4 today, was adamant that the transitional period would end before the next General election – probably no more than two years – to be replaced by a “deep and special partnership” with the EU. This, the paper admits, will be an innovative but untested approach. It suggests two options:-

  • A highly streamlined customs arrangement between the UK and the EU, streamlining and simplifying requirements, leaving as few additional requirements on UK-EU trade as possible. This would aim to: continue some of the existing agreements between the UK and the EU; put in place new negotiated and unilateral facilitations to reduce and remove barriers to trade; and implement technology-based solutions to make it easier to comply with customs procedures.
  • A new customs partnership with the EU, aligning our approach to the customs border in a way that removes the need for a UK-EU customs border. One potential approach would involve the UK mirroring the EU’s requirements for imports from the rest of the world where their final destination is the EU.

There is, in theory, a third option – failure to reach an agreement (see Paragraph 53), but the paper insists that “this is not the Government’s preferred outcome to the negotiations, but it is essential that the UK is prepared for all possible outcomes of customs arrangements.” As for the first option – a high-tech solution, there are some doubts as to whether it really will create frictionless borders, especially as soon as March 2019. As one analyst has said, ” making sure there are no traffic jams in Dover will be more about the arts of management, politics and the law than technology.

The obvious concern on reading the paper through is that this paper is very much a UK wish list. The EU is under no obligation to say yes. What is a particular cause for concern is that its treaty-based structure may not allow it to treat us as an honorary member of its Customs Union.  It is likely that we will be able to devise a system allowing  goods from the EU a reasonably smooth passage through UK customs by March 2019, especially as the if the new customs declaration service using state-of-the-art technology is up and running by then. What is far from certain is that our exports to the EU will enjoy anything like a seamless passage through their customs.  The EU will have to change its customs procedures to adapt to the different  status of the UK on Brexit. Are they prepared to do this?

We will have to wait a while for a formal response. So far, the main comment from Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, is that no discussions on customs can proceed until sufficient progress is made on the UK’s exit bill, the Irish border and the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit. Guy Verhofstadt, representing the EU Parliament, was  very sceptical, dismissing talk of a shadow customs union and invisible borders as “fantasy”.

One also would like to know if the author(s) of this paper are sufficiently aware of the differences between a customs union and a customs clearance agreement.  The latter is essential, the former almost certainly not, even as an interim arrangement.

The CBI has nonetheless described the proposal as “encouraging”.  David Davis’ interview made it clear that his Department still has a few cards up his sleeve and that for tactical reasons, he was not prepared to give anything further away. What has been put into the public domain has shown that the Government is aware of the issues UK businesses will face but offers little detail on how they will be resolved.