Tories prepare for 'no deal' on Brexit
Prime Minister Theresa May told the British public to buckle up and brace for the UK to crash out of the EU as she anticipated the deadlocked negotiations between Downing Street and Brussels might carry on for another twelve months before seeing any real progress.
At Westminster on Monday, the PM said that as hopes of a potential agreement seemed to be fading fast, at home and abroad, that it was time to detail out the government's "steps to minimise disruption" before March 2019.
These steps contained the Tories' plans for massive inland lorry parks to deal with longer customs checks that would be needed to avoid traffic at ports becoming clogged up.
May insisted that her cabinet would make no further compromises in the talks, telling the EU that the "ball's in their court."
However, European Commission chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas rebuffed the PM's statement, saying "There has been, so far, no solution found on step one, which is the divorce proceedings, so the ball is entirely in the UK's court for the rest to happen."
Theresa May said she believed "real and tangible progress" had been made after her Florence speech in September, but made it clear that her new policy papers on trade and customs agreements were there to prove to the world that Britain could be a successful "independent trading nation" regardless of whether or not the UK saw a hard or soft Brexit.
She told MPs, "While I believe it is profoundly in all our interests for the negotiations to succeed, it is also our responsibility as a Government to prepare for every eventuality, so that is exactly what we are doing. These white papers also support that work, including setting out steps to minimise disruption for businesses and travellers."
In the two government white papers released on Monday, May's planned post-Brexit customs arrangements laid out exactly what the UK would need in the event of a "no deal" exit.
"Traders that currently trade only with the EU will be subject to customs declarations and customs checks for the first time," the paper stated. "The impact is likely to be greatest where goods are travelling in vehicles (eg HGVs, vans, etc)."
"It would not be desirable to hold vehicles for any length of time at ports to present goods to Customs for export. Therefore, presentation would take place inland as much as possible, and at the port there would be a means to confirm that goods have left the UK."
The paper said a bill would guarantee the UK's ability to charge customs duty on goods, "including goods imported from the EU."
"Due to the EU’s geographical proximity to the UK, allowing parcels valued £15 or less to be sent from the EU without VAT being payable would potentially undermine the UK high street in the same way as low value parcels sent from the Channel Islands did before the rules were changed in 2012."
May told the House of Commons that she was looking for a "creative solution to a new economic relationship" with the EU.
"We don’t want to settle for a model enjoyed by other countries,” she said. "Instead I am proposing a unique and ambitious partnership that reflects our unprecedented position of starting with the same rules."