Downing Street says that ministers have agreed a customs regime strategy. That’s stretching the facts. The EU, MPs and the voters may also have their own views on the matter
There was a time, perhaps, when the government’s ineptitude over Brexit was almost funny. There is nothing funny about it now. For 15 months Theresa May has groped her way towards an approach that could reconcile her party’s Europe-loathers with her party’s Europe-pragmatists. All too predictably, none of her efforts have succeeded. Mrs May now has a month before the June European council at which the UK and the EU are due to review progress. She has five months before some kind of deal is struck. Progress? Deal? These words have lost all meaning. Getting two pandas to mate in captivity turns out to be a cinch compared with getting the Conservative party to agree what it wants.
Mrs May’s latest suggestions for turning Brexit dross into an agreement that can be marketed as golden is a so-called “time-limited goods arrangement”. Essentially, this is an attempt to keep the UK within the EU’s external tariff system after Brexit until it can come up with an effective technological alternative to a post-Brexit hard border in Ireland. That way, the loathers would get their Brexit, the pragmatists would get something they could call a frictionless Irish border, Mrs May would have a united party for a few weeks and the UK would not crash out of the EU unprotected.