Brexit customs partnership option crazy and unworkable: DUP

A senior DUP figure has challenged the secretary of state’s claims that a customs partnership would make it easier to deal with the Irish border question after Brexit.

Sammy Wilson MP said the proposal – which is said to be Theresa May’s preferred option – would be “a sure fire way of ensuring that no one will want to do a trade deal with the UK” after its withdrawal from the EU.

Karen Bradley said a customs partnership would make it easier to deal with the border issue

Karen Bradley said a customs partnership would make it easier to deal with the border issue

And he added that he cannot understand why the government would favour this model, which he branded “crazy and unworkable”.

The prime minister’s Brexit “war cabinet” met again on Tuesday without reaching agreement on which of the two options for customs arrangements on the Irish border – the “customs partnership” and “maximum facilitation” models – it will back.

The EU is putting pressure on Britain to present its preferred option at a meeting of the European Council in June, although Downing Street insists it will not put a timetable on the process.

Ms Bradley said a customs partnership would make it easier to deal with the Irish border issue.

But DUP Brexit spokesperson Mr Wilson told the News Letter the option would be “costly, bureaucratic, crazy and unworkable”.

The arrangement would mean the UK collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU for any goods coming to the UK that were subsequently destined for any other union member state.

Businesses would claim back any tariff rebates from the government if the goods stayed in the UK.

Mr Wilson added: “Why bother doing a trade deal with UK if you have to jump through all those hoops?

“On top of that, I am still at a loss to understand how it would deal with the Irish border issue, as you would still have to have a means of checking goods going into the Irish Republic.”

The East Antrim MP said the other option put forward by the government – the so-called “maxfac” model – is the best solution.

“The way to solve the issue is to use technology to trace goods as they move across the Irish border or between ports such as Dover and Calais,” he added.

Speaking on Wednesday, NI Secretary Ms Bradley said both of the customs options on the table could potentially be made to work.

She added: “There is no doubt that a customs partnership hybrid model makes the Irish border situation easier, there is no doubt that the question of the Irish border is resolved by the customs partnership in an easier way than maximum facilitation.”

Ms Bradley is part of a working group examining the “maxfac” model, after Mrs May divided her cabinet ministers into two groups to explore the rival options being considered.

Speaking at the European Scrutiny committee, Ms Bradley reiterated the government’s pledge that there would be no new physical infrastructure at the border, including additional cameras, adding this would represent a security risk.

She also reiterated her position on the EU’s “backstop” option on the border which would see alignment of Northern Ireland-related matters with the EU, adding: “We don’t want the backstop to happen.

“We want to solve the issue of the Irish border through the overall EU/UK relationship.”