Northern Ireland news

Tory post-Brexit vision for customs partnership with the EU not having our cake and eating it, says Brokenshire

James Brokenshire, left, with the Republic's Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney

The UK government's post-Brexit vision for a customs partnership with the EU is not evidence of it trying to have its cake and eat it, the Secretary of State has said.

James Brokenshire insisted the proposals were not one sided and would benefit the EU as well.

The government has proposed a time limited-transition period of around three years when current customs arrangements would be maintained but the UK could still negotiate, though not enact, other international trade deals.

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It then envisages two potential options for a long-term deal.

The more ambitious one would see the UK aligning or mirroring its customs approach with the EU model.

The second proposed customs model, dubbed the "highly streamlined" approach, would see the UK negotiate agreements with the EU to reduce trade barriers and harness technology to avoid long queues at ports connecting the UK with mainland continental Europe.

The plans have been met with scepticism in Brussels, with the European Parliament's chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt claiming invisible borders were a "fantasy".

Critics claim the UK is trying to cherry pick the benefits of being in the customs union, while refusing to budge on issues such as free movement of people.

Mr Brokenshire told the Press Association the government was trying to find a solution that benefited both sides of the negotiations.

"I don't see this as wanting our cake and eating it.

"It is about ensuring that we have the enduring deep and special partnership with our EU friends colleagues and neighbours.

"So rather this being some sort of characterisation as trying to be one sided in some fashion, it is rather how we want to see the EU continuing to succeed and how we want to see that enduring relationship with our EU partners."

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