Now that Michel Barnier has rejected Theresa May’s proposed customs arrangement with the EU, her Chequers blueprint looks dead. Indeed, the minds of Conservative ministers and MPs are turning to another possible escape route from the Brexit maze: the UK staying in the single market by remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA) along with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Significantly, this option is not just being discussed by the band of 20 pro-European Tory MPs led by Dominic Grieve. It is also attracting the attention of pragmatic Brexiteers, whose unofficial leader is Michael Gove.
The proposal Theresa May is presenting Friday — dubbed a “facilitated customs arrangement” — calls for the U.K. to use technology at its borders to determine whether goods are bound for Britain or the EU, and charge the appropriate tariffs. It would also commit Britain to keeping its regulations closely aligned to those of the EU for trade in goods and agricultural productions — but not in services, which accounts for the bulk of Britain’s economy.
Brexit opponents say Johnson and other pro-Leave campaigners deliberately misled the public by saying 350 million pounds a week could be spent on the state-run National Health Service (NHS), a claim emblazoned on a campaign bus, and it has become symbolic of the divisions caused by the referendum.