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Ed's Brexit round-up

9th Feb 2018 / By Ed Barker

If proof were needed that we really are lurching from one position to another, then this week is it.

EdBarkerNPACustoms union or no customs union?

Any of you who read my musings last week will have noted my conversations with contacts in Brussels that the Government was prepared to do a deal with the EU in aligning with its custom union as a way of getting round the issues raised by the Northern Ireland border. Maybe not.

For when Monday came around, that very position I had said would happen was firmly dismissed by Number 10 – we would not be entering into a customs union with the EU. Clearly I need to shine my crystal ball a bit harder.

In all fairness to my clairvoyance, being a part of a customs union was (and still is) an aspiration of many in Cabinet – just not one shared by the Brexiteers on the front benches or back benches. This is a debate that has raged on all week – many see a customs union as the only way to prevent a hard border in Ireland, whereas Brexiteers have advocated new, technological solutions that will allow a divergence in standards without the need for a hard border. Ideas have included ‘trust a trader’ schemes (pre-registration of products), automatic number plate recognition and paperless certification. Such ideas are untried elsewhere in the world, which is why the Northern Ireland border could be where the ideological tussle meets simple pragmatism.

Tories holding firm 

The past few weeks have been devoted to the supposed demise of the Prime Minister, with numerous quarters in her own party briefing against her. Interestingly, the Conservatives have, since June 2016, remained solidly in 38-42% polling – more or less on a par with the labour party.

Smaller parties like the greens and Lib Dems have been marginalised, which may surprise those that felt that Brexit would broaden political opinion as oppose to making it as binary as it is. For comparison, the Tories under the Coalition Government  were frequently polling between 26%-32% nationally between 2011 and 2014. So they are more popular now than they were then (much more so) and have been able to retain that support despite the less than positive headlines against the PM and her Government. Trusted, but not liked, has been one way of describing the scenario, with few people willing to step into the PM’s place.