The UK will try to strike a “temporary” customs union with the European Union immediately after Brexit, it has been announced.
A paper published by the Department for Exiting the EU said the arrangement would “allow for a smooth and orderly transfer” to the long-term arrangements which will eventually be put in place.
Ministers will also call on Brussels to allow them to enter into formal trade negotiations with other countries while the temporary arrangement is in place.
Britain is currently banned from doing so as it is still a member of the EU – and it is questionable whether Brussels would accede to that demand.
In the document, DExEU said: “This time-limited period of implementation will provide certainty for businesses in the UK and the EU and would ensure that businesses only have to adjust once to a new customs relationship, as the prime minister set out in her Lancaster House speech in January.
“During this interim period, which will be negotiated with Brussels, Britain will look to negotiate bold new trade relationships around the world.”
The plans emerged just a day after Philip Hammond and Liam Fox insisted that the UK will leave the customs union after Brexit.
In a joint article for the Sunday Telegraph, they said: “We respect the will of the British people – in March 2019 the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.
“We will leave the customs union and be free to negotiate the best trade deals around the world as an independent, open, trading nation.
“We will leave the single market, because there was a vote for change on June 23 and that is what we will deliver...
“When we’ve left the customs union, we will build up on [relationships with other countries] by negotiating as an independent nation with the freedom to sign bilateral free trade agreements.”
The government will also reveal its proposals for solving the problems surrounding the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit in a separate document to be published on Wednesday.
In their own document out today, DExEU said: “The paper will make clear the commitment to maintain a seamless and frictionless border with no return to the hard borders of the past.”