THERESA MAY’S latest Brexit battle, namely the difficult dilemma over whether Britain should remain part of the EU customs union, can be traced back to the original referendum on European Union membership in June 2016.
Not only was an insufficient onus placed on Brexit campaigners to specify the country’s future trading terms in great precision, including Northern Ireland’s future border arrangements, but the actual ballot paper only asked voters: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”
The consequence was there was no scope for people to set out the type of Brexit they preferred; the dilemma that has been exercising Mrs May since she came to power and tabled Article 30 to begin the process, before losing her overall majority in last June’s election.
Yet, while Mrs May has done well to maintain the Government’s equilibrium so far, this week’s meeting of a key Cabinet committee – and forthcoming votes in Parliament – are likely to force the Prime Minister’s hand.
Though a transition period with the EU has been agreed, and continuing membership of the customs union appears to have been ruled out by 10 Downing Street, MPs – and, more importantly, businesses – deserve clarity on the Government’s intentions.
Britain’s future trading relationships with Europe – and the rest of the world for that matter – are too important to be left to chance. They are fundamental to the country’s growth and this pre-requisite should be exercising the minds of those leaders and law-makers who still appear to be pre-occupied with re-running the referendum. After all, any political paralysis at Westminster is likely to play further into the hands of the EU and further reduce the UK’s options at this juncture.