The situation in regards to the UK-EU discussions seems to be that the cabinet argued last week about two options for supposedly solving the Irish border situation, neither of which were accepted nor rejected, and it was all immaterial anyhow as both of them had been rejected by the EU Commission already. This, combined with Corbyn moving to a pro-CU position, combined further with the Lords amendments that would tie the government into a customs union should they pass the House of Commons, has led to much Brexiter upset about remaining in a customs union as it hovers into possibility again.
I can see some of their points. Why would we bother to leave the EU simply to have to have all of our tariffs decided by Brussels anyhow? The ability to strike free trade deals around the globe crashes to a halt. Beyond anything I could say to rebut those two points (so let’s stay in then; what free trade deals are realistic anyhow?), there is one thing that stands as a particularly enormous elephant in the room: the border in Ireland.
This has been talked to death, so I won’t rehash the finer points of the issue, I’ll only say this: Brexiters who are serious about leaving the customs union should be upfront and honest about the massive risk to the Union it entails. Just because Northern Irish Unionists seemingly can’t see it, does not mean it’s not staring us in the face.
I would still disagree but at least I would respect a viewpoint that said: “We are not deciding our entire trading future on the back of the Irish border question. We’re definitely leaving both the single market and the customs union, which means either a hard border in Ireland, or a customs border across the Irish Sea. We would take either as a trade off for being able to be a nation capable of striking its own trade deals once more.” Again, I disagree, but at least that’s honest. They could come to the conclusion that the Irish Sea was better (of the two, it most certainly is). They could then say to the nation, “We think this is so important, we are willing to bring down our own government over this. But we feel the mandate given in June 2016 is too strong to ignore”. Then call a general election as the DUP furiously bleat. That is, whatever else it might also be, taking the issues seriously.
But no – there are whole articles out there that go on and on about how leaving the customs union is vital without ever addressing this point anywhere near satisfactorily. Most Brexiters value Brexit far more than they value the Union. The time has come for them to be honest about this.