Trade

Boris Johnson: Customs partnership plan is crazy

A “customs partnership” with the EU that would see the U.K. collect tariffs on the blocs behalf to avoid a hard Irish border is “a crazy system,” according to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

“Its totally untried and would make it very, very difficult to do free-trade deals,” Johnson told the Daily Mail in an interview published late Monday. “If you have the new customs partnership, you have a crazy system whereby you end up collecting the tariffs on behalf of the EU at the U.K. frontier.”

The customs partnership is said to be the post-Brexit option preferred by Theresa May, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark because it would allow Britain to strike trade deals after Brexit while avoiding a hard border across Ireland. But it has caused a split in Mays Cabinet, with reports of an “ultimatum” issued by senior Tory MPs who favor a “highly streamlined customs arrangement,” which involves using technology solutions to lower customs barriers.

Brussels has already rejected both of these customs models.

Johnson, who spoke to the Daily Mail in Washington D.C., advocated a “confident free-trading Britain able to do its own deals,” no longer “locked in the lunar pull of Brussels.”

The foreign secretary hailed the possibility of a trade deal with the U.S. as a “massive opportunity” and said U.S. President Donald Trump is “keen for Britain to get out of the EU” so that U.K.-U.S. trade negotiations can begin.

Trump is “surprised its taking so long,” Johnson said.

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