We should dump the Chequers proposal in favour of a deal with the EU on WTO terms

William Hudson: A Customs Union is a really bad idea

When the UK voted to leave the EU, it was so we had control over all aspects of our country again. In order to have control over our trading policy, we must be out of the EU customs union.

A customs union, put simply, is a trading bloc where there are relatively few tariffs and checks at the borders between member states. However, there is a common external tariff on imports of goods and services from outside this arrangement. As a result, this prevents independent nations from negotiating their own FTAs. When the EU negotiates free trade deals, it does so on behalf of all 28 member states. But negotiating on behalf of 28 nations with different interests is very time-consuming and complex – if the UK were negotiating independently with another nation, this process would be expedited.

Staying in the Customs Union after we have “left the EU” is madness. It would leave us with no say at all over our own trade policy. Yet there are some in Parliament who lack belief in their country and think the UK – the fifth largest economy in the world and the second most powerful country in the world – is too small to negotiate trade deals by itself.

Shockingly, it appears that some MPs advocating for us to remain in the Customs Union don’t even know what it is. It doesn’t qualify as leaving, because:

  • The EU27 would be negotiating all future trade deals which the UK would have to abide by with no say in them – this means a country such as Poland would have more control over the UK’s trade policy than the UK itself;
  • The UK couldn’t sign its own FTAs, neutralising one of the main reasons people (such as myself) want us to Brexit;
  • The UK becomes a tax collector for Brussels; effectively taxation without representation – a direct breach of our social contract;
  • It doesn’t even solve the current problem of the Irish border/backstop, as the backstop *is* a customs union and is the reason why the Prime Minister’s deal currently cannot pass through parliament.

MPs were given an instruction in 2016 from 17.4 million people – to take us out of the EU and make Britain a truly global nation once more. If MPs want to deliver on this instruction, they must not attempt to force the government into signing Britain up to a customs union, but instead believe in Britain and our ability to define our own future once more.

William Hudson studies French and Economics at the University of Reading, where he is Deputy Chair of Reading University Conservatives. Follow him on Twitter: @William11hudson