Where are the customs experts in the customs partnership debate? Asks Eszter Kantor, Fashion Roundtable's EU Expert.
This video by the Financial Times is a great (and quick) way to see what we are talking about when we discuss the customs union and why it is at the heart of the Brexit negotiations and trade deals.
"Functionality and transparency are key features of a well functioning customs system. Businesses need a reliable, effective system they can count on. Political solutions alone are not enough." Says Eszter Kantor, Fashion Roundtable's EU Expert, based in Brussels, who has worked on trade negotiations for international companies as a policy director.
As Eszter said for the SHOWstudio Fashion Roundtable In Conversation broadcast last week, at the heart of any trade negotiations has to be your objective and where you: as a country, a brand, or a business, see yourself in five years' time.
We asked Eszter some questions about how the negotiations are going and where we are heading, in light of business concerns raised by business leaders, such as CBI for UK Business Insider. What do Britain’s business leaders want to happen in the great “customs partnership” versus “maximum facilitation” debate? Here, Eszter shares some thoughts.
"Why is the UK Government discussing options that a) will be rejected by the EU b) will not be possible to implement in the given time period?
Implementation is the key word here. The procedural aspects that bore everyone senseless including the paperwork, authorizations, monitoring, surveillance are the cornerstones of a well functioning cross-border trade system. International obligations will have to be met including, quotas, product safety and export control procedures for dual use items (military and civilian use). Adhering to these require a well functioning, transparent system.
As a reminder here is an excerpt from the March 2018 European Council guidelines:
'As regards the core of the economic relationship, the European Council confirms its readiness to initiate work towards a free trade agreement (FTA), to be finalised and concluded once the UK is no longer a Member State. Such an agreement cannot offer the same benefits as Membership and cannot amount to participation in the Single Market or parts thereof. '
This agreement would address:
i) trade in goods, with the aim of covering all sectors, which should be subject to zero tariffs and no quantitative restrictions with appropriate accompanying rules of origin. In
this context, existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained.
ii) appropriate customs cooperation, preserving the regulatory and jurisdictional autonomy of the parties and the integrity of the EU Customs Union.
The last sentence in bold, gives a good indication that the customs partnership in which the UK would collect tariffs on behalf of the EU will not work. You can imagine it would be like me collecting payment for your work done in the EU. Just give my bank account to your clients and then I will forward the money to you.
There are good ideas in the maximum facilitation proposal, such as the trusted trader scheme, which Fashion Roundtable advocated for earlier this year, with our letter to MPs advocacy work. Alone it would still not be enough though. Since implementation and functionality are key here I sincerely hope that actual trade and customs experts are advising the cabinet, because here political solutions will not be enough.'