The British government is considering staying aligned to the EU's customs union for years after a post-Brexit transition period if it can not resolve the Irish border issue, newspaper reports said Thursday.
Britain's opposition Labour Party tried to force Prime Minister Theresa May's government on Wednesday (16 May) to reveal details of its two customs proposals in Brexit talks, capitalizing on a row that is dividing her ministers, writes Elizabeth Piper.
Britain is due to leave the European Union in March next year although it has secured a transitional arrangement to keep its trade ties with the bloc unchanged until the end of 2020, as long as a permanent deal can also be reached in the coming months.
Figures in Brussels are opposed to the UK's suggestion that the backstop should be time-limited because, in theory, this means Britain could drop out of the customs union without an Irish solution being in place. And even though there may be no customs checks, there will have to be checks on goods crossing the Border.
Senior government figures had conceded that neither of their proposed options for a customs deal would be ready by the end of the implementation period in December 2020.
Mr Varadkar said: "We stand by the same position that we've had for a very long time now - that there can be no withdrawal agreement without the backstop, and we need that backstop to ensure there's no hard border".
The Irish premier has warned Britain that it must keep some ties to the single market with Brexit in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic.
While the European Commission could make an exception for the United Kingdom to remain aligned on customs, the single market would require compliance with freedom of movement and European Court of Justice oversight.
He said: "Surely the point about a new customs arrangement is that it needs to work smoothly from day one, or we will have chaos on the roads, especially in Kent". The plan is thought to involve agreeing to continue collecting the European Union common external tariff, the standardised rate set by Brussels on goods entering the EU.
Turkey Option: Leaving the single market and customs unions, while starting a new customs union with the EU.
Following the meetings, the Prime Minister confirmed that the UK's alternative "backstop" proposal would be produced "in due course".
But it raised new questions about who would oversee it and how disputes might be resolved. The Irish Government has made it clear that it will veto a transitional deal if a hard border is imposed between it and Northern Ireland.
Maximum facilitation, known in Whitehall jargon as "max fac", relies on new technology and is thought to be a potential compromise that could win support from Conservative MPs.