Belfast Telegraph

EU 'won't allow UK to keep some sectors in customs union and pull others out'

The European Union will not allow Britain to "cherry-pick" certain industries it would like to continue enjoying tariff-free trade in the customs union after Brexit, a former trade boss has said.

Sir Andrew Cahn, ex-chief executive of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), expressed doubts about Britain being allowed to keep sectors like car manufacturing in the customs union after leaving the EU, while pulling others out.

He spoke after International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, whose department replaced UKTI this year, signalled that the UK could remain a partial member of the customs union in a similar arrangement to Turkey.

Remaining a full member of the customs union means the UK would have to keep the same international tariffs as the EU, which would severely hamper ministers' ability to cut free trade deals after Brexit.

It would also mean abiding by European Court of Justice rulings in relation to trade rules, which Prime Minister Theresa May has apparently ruled out.

Sir Andrew, who is also a former adviser to Lord Cockfield, the Conservative European commissioner who created the single market in the 1980s, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Turkey does exclude agriculture and services, which of course is huge, and procurement.

"Agriculture often is a special case in trade agreements, that's not surprising.

"What I think is more difficult to contemplate is the idea that you have cars inside but some sort of widgets outside.

"The idea is that cars which we care about, aerospace which we care about, financial services which we care about, wouldn't it be great if they were in the customs union.

"Would that be legal under the WTO (World Trade Organisation), I doubt, even if we got away with it I don't think the EU side would be prepared to do it - why would they allow us to cherry-pick?"

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