5 questions answered on the the European single-market and customs union

European Union

What is the single-market? What is the customs union? Will the UK remain a part of it?

Talk of the European single-market and European customs union has played a key part in discussions about post-Brexit Britain in recent months. According to the BBC, on Friday the former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls declared that small and medium businesses wish to remain in both.

Here are five things to know about the single-market and the customs union.

1. What is the single-market?

The European single-market is a key component of the European Union. States that are members of the single-market sign up to the EU’s four freedoms: goods, services, capital and labour. This allows the movement of all four to take place around the EU without any inter-country friction. Most controversially of the four is the free movement of people, with immigration having been highlighted as a key concern by Brexiteers during 2016’s referendum. However, to be part of the single-market for goods, services and capital, a state must also sign up to free movement of people.

2. What is the customs union?

The custom union exists to make trade between member states much easier by removing barriers to trade across European borders. In addition to this, there is a common external tariff applied to goods and services coming into the union. Therefore, the customs union facilitates free trade inside the EU while also imposing protectionist measures on countries wishing to trade with the EU.

Additionally, by being part of the customs union, the UK is not free to make its own trade deals. Instead the EU Commission makes trade deals on behalf of all customs union countries, something that gives strengthens its hands in negotiations.

3. Do EU states need to be in the single-market and the customs union?

EU member states must sign up to both the single-market and the customs union, however, the two blocs are not solely for EU members. Andorra, San Marino and Turkey are all part of the customs union while Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland are also in the single-market (to different extents), according to the Telegraph.

Therefore, the UK could remain in either or both once its leaves the EU.

4. Will we remain after Brexit?

The current government plans to take the UK out of both the customs union and the single-market, as reported by the BBC.

5. What is Labour’s position?

Labour’s position on Brexit has been somewhat ambiguous to say the least. Jeremy Corbyn is playing a difficult game by trying to appeal to both his leave and remain supporters. However, the party may have to have a firmer policy in place soon, as the Huffington Post has reported that the party has received “17,000 emails” from its “grassroots” to “consult party members of Brexit”.