Recent events have highlighted the challenges that the UK and EU both still face when it comes to Brexit. These challenges are both political and practical (and, arguably, predictable).
Chaos at EU ports?
The Independent has published details of challenges for EU ports in preparing for the UK withdrawal from the customs union. Rotterdam is cited as the busiest port in Europe and a major hub for non-EU shipments destined for the UK. Supply chain operations see goods arrive at the port from the far east, clear EU customs to enter the single market, then ship out again to the UK or other internal markets. When the UK is no longer in the customs union, there will be an extra layer of red tape complicating the process. This could mean longer turn around times for transhipments, more costs, and more vehicles required. Dutch customs are preparing for the worst by hiring over 700 customs officials, whilst hoping for a deal between the two parties that will require minimal checks and formalities. As often mentioned, uncertainty is one of the biggest issues. See below for a link to the full report.
Barnier, Ireland and a House of Lords headache
Meanwhile, the EU has reportedly rejected two UK proposals over the Irish border issue. The first of these involves the UK acting on behalf of the EU to collect duties where required, the second relates to the use of technology to allow for a ‘streamlined’ customs arrangement. Apparently the EU negotiators dismissed the proposals as ‘magical thinking’. The chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier insists that there is a ‘risk of failure’ in negotiations if the Irish border problem is not resolved soon. The latest deadline for progress to be made is June, when the next summit will take place.
More pain came the governments way on Wednesday as the House of Lords voted against it in support of an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill. The amendment demands that ministers must explain to parliament what they have done to ensure there is a customs union (of some form) with the EU after Brexit. 348 Peers voted in favour with 225 against. This highlights the potential that the Lords has to disrupt and delay Brexit legislation, although the government does have the power to ultimately force through it’s plans. More worrying for Theresa May is the prospect of a vote in the Commons. Some in her own party are apparently wavering. All of which reminds us just how far there is still to go before we know what Brexit will really look like.
External Media Links
The Independent: How Brexit is set to cause chaos at Europe’s ports
The Guardian: EU rejects Irish border proposals and says Brexit talks could still fail
The Irish Times: Theresa May could face cabinet revolt over customs union