There is scarcely anything more abhorrent than a treaty which prevents a sovereign nation from striking bilateral trading agreements with any foreign nation of its choosing. This however is exactly what a post-Brexit EU-UK customs union would achieve. Such a situation would be even worse than UK membership of the European Union as at present the UK gets some say in what trading agreements and tariffs the EU will place on non-member states, whilst under a proposed permanent EU-UK customs union, the UK would get zero say.
But beyond questions of ‘some say’ versus ‘no say’, there is a much deeper issue at hand. The idea that a nation cannot unilaterally control its own policy on trade, tariffs, sanctions and non-tariff trade barriers is repugnant to the very notion of sovereignty and democracy. What’s more is that the EU’s parochial approach to trade betrays statements from a super-national body which claims to believe in free and open trading. The reality is that while the EU’s language is different to that of Donald Trump, the EU is in fact an ultra-protectionist body that refuses to sign FTAs with some of the world’s most rapidly growing economies in Asia and Africa. As such, EU trade negotiators are often vastly less reasonable than Donald Trump.
Instead, the reality of an economic “fortress Europe” has become entrenched among the European elites. This is why EU FTAs with foreign powers tend to be reserved not for the most dynamic trading partners but for partners whose own economies are as stagnant as are many in Europe – Japan for example.
Beyond this, by refusing to trade with the economically and culturally diverse developing economies of Asia and Africa, the EU continues to project a mono-cultural ethos that is deeply out of step with a world becoming ever more interconnected across multiple continents. When one delves deeper, it appears nothing short of systematically racist that an EU-UK customs union would forbid the UK from signing free trading agreements with scores of countries in Asia and Africa, in spite of the fact that many British people having ancestry and in many cases business connections to economic powerhouses countries throughout Asia and Africa.
Modern Britain would be best served by taking a global approach to trade and even if for whatever reason some UK politicians do not wish to do this, there should still be no treaty prohibiting a democratically elected parliament from going global in terms of trade at any time in the future.
An entangling EU-UK customs union is not only severely limiting in terms of economic potential but it is also un-democratic and systematically racist.