Boris Johnson signals UK will leave Customs Union post-Brexit

Hayley Kirton
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Johnson isn't confident the UK will stay in the Customs Union (Source: Getty)

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson has confirmed the UK will probably have to leave the Customs Union post-Brexit in an interview published today.

Although much of the Brexit debate has focused on what access British businesses can hope to maintain to the Single Market, less attention has been given to whether the UK will continue to be a member of the European Union Customs Union, currently a 29 member bloc within which customs are not charged and which negotiates deals with outside blocs as a collective.

Speaking with Czech publication Hospodarske Noviny, Johnson said that the UK would likely maintain some sort of relationship with the Single Market, similar to the way the US has already achieved as a third party, but added: "We'll probably have to leave the Customs Union...I believe it can be done while maintaining free trade and growing European economy."

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Meanwhile, speaking at a conference in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted it might be time for a rethink of the freedom of movement of people rules.

While Merkel remained strong in her refusal to allow the UK to have its cake and eat it post-Brexit, by being able to restrict immigration and still have tariff-free access to the union, the Chancellor suggested there might be certain situations where it is not suitable to allow freedom of movement outright.

"Free movement applies to me in the sense that the employee himself earns the money he needs for himself and his family in the other member state," she is quoted by Reuters as saying.

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Also today, Jose Barroso, the former president of the European Commission who was recently appointed non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs' international business, said steps could have been taken which may have prevented June's Leave vote.

"I think Europe could have done more to avoid a separation of Britain," Barroso is quoted by Bloomberg as saying. "There also are huge responsibilities in London because when you are bashing the European Union for more than 20 years, you cannot expect people to change their minds in two months – and that’s exactly what happened."

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Although it is not totally clear what conditions government will push for while negotiating Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May said yesterday that politicians must at least give a nod to the majority of the electorate's concerns about globalisation, despite the "overwhelmingly positive impact" it had otherwise had.

Research released last month by Change Britain, a campaign backed by Johnson, argued the UK could access economies worth £16.8bn by saying goodbye to the Customs Union and forming other trade deals instead.

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