House of Lords Library

Future of UK Trade and Customs Policy

Published Friday, December 1, 2017

This House of Lords Library Briefing has been written ahead of the debate in the House of Lords on 5 December 2017 to take note of the future of United Kingdom trade and customs policy in the light of Her Majesty’s Government white papers 'Preparing for our Future UK Trade Policy' (Cm 9470) and 'Customs Bill: Legislating for the UK’s Future Customs' (Cm 9502).

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On 5 December 2017 the House of Lords is due to debate a motion moved by Baroness Fairhead, Minister of State at the Department for International Trade, that this House takes note of the future of United Kingdom trade and customs policy in the light of Her Majesty’s Government white papers Preparing for our Future UK Trade Policy (Cm 9470) and Customs Bill: Legislating for the UK’s Future Customs (Cm 9502).

This briefing sets out the background to the publication of these two white papers and briefly summarises their contents. A selection of key documents, including some commentary on the Government’s proposals for customs and trade policy, is identified at the end of the briefing.

The Government has outlined three strategic aims with regard to its future trade policy outside the EU: ensuring UK-EU trade is as frictionless as possible; avoiding a ‘hard border’ between Ireland and Northern Ireland; and establishing an independent international trade policy. The Prime Minister has ruled out remaining in the single market or the customs union, or adopting existing arrangements such as membership of the European Economic Area. 

The two white papers set out some of the domestic legal provisions that would be necessary for the UK to establish its own customs regime and international trade policy outside the UK. Their publication was followed by the introduction of two bills, the Taxation (Cross-Border) Trade Bill and the Trade Bill, both of which are currently awaiting second reading in the House of Commons.

This briefing does not focus on the specific issues relating to Northern Ireland, or proposals to avoid the creation of a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The Government has issued a separate publication, Northern Ireland and Ireland: Position Paper, which outlined how it believed customs might be managed between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Further background information can be found in the House of Lords Library briefing, Leaving the European Union: The UK and Ireland (13 March 2017), whilst the latest state of negotiations is discussed in the House of Commons Library briefing, Brexit: The November Negotiations (24 November 2017).

Lords Library notes LLN-2017-0089

Author: Heather Evennett

Topics: EU law and treaties, International trade, Taxation

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