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UK officials tabled a new paper with plans to keep “roll on, roll off” ports on both sides of English Channel flowing as part of any future free-trade agreement with the bloc. But Michel Barnier is said to have “snubbed” the proposal because it could keep the EU indefinitely tied to an unwanted system. “The plan was snubbed because it would have tied the EU into a system when flexibility will be needed over time,” a Brussels insider said.
Another source said member states would be left to decide how best to handle incoming shipments from the UK.
The offer was made of part of last week’s round of trade negotiations in the Belgian capital.
British negotiators told their EU counterparts it would be mutually beneficial to broker an agreement to protect traders using the Dover-Calais, Channel Tunnel and Holyhead-Dublin shipping routes.
Under the model, the Government proposed allowing firms to make customs declarations in advance to prevent any hold-ups at the point of crossing.
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “The Government knows the importance of roll-on, roll-off ports for UK trade, on routes like Dover-Calais, the Channel Tunnel and Holyhead-Dublin.
“We have proposed a model that would introduce effective customs controls as we leave the EU’s customs union, while allowing these ports to keep moving. This will involve traders making customs declarations in advance, something that has long been permitted under UK and EU law.”
Downing Street is committed to implementing its own plans in the UK after the country leaves the EU’s customs union on December 31.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is said to be “working around the clock” to prepare Britain for its transition out of EU rules – including no deal.
”The UK will introduce these measures whether or not a free trade agreement is concluded, but the Government believes it is in both sides’ interest to implement any RoRo requirements in a consistent way,” the spokeswoman added.
“We have already published legal text setting out how this would work in the Free-trade agreement. We now need to move on to detailed discussions of the proposal if we are to reach agreement in time.”
European hauliers urged the UK and EU to reach a pact that enables the free flow of goods across the border.
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Marco Digioia, secretary-general of the European Road Haulers Association, said: “Our mantra is, and will always be, the flow of goods must not be interrupted.
“We need to make sure progress is made in the talks between the EU and UK to ensure European haulers can access UK markets and vice versa.
“There needs to be a joint effort on both sides of the Channel to find a balanced approach.”
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Both UK and EU officials bemoaned the lack of progress in the negotiations last week.
Britain has set a deadline of October for the trade deal to be signed off.
Further talks between David Frost, the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy, and Mr Barnier are scheduled to take place in London this week, and in Brussels the next.
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