Irish Foreign Minister urges UK to remain in extended customs union after Brexit

The UK is being urged by the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney to remain in the EU customs union after Brexit.

He called for the UK to remain in “an extended customs union and single market”.

At the British-Irish Association conference in Cambridge on Saturday evening Mr Coveney said that he finds it hard to believe that the option of staying in the customs union could be ruled out before negotiations on trade have even started.

The European Union Customs Union consists of 28 member states that trade with each other freely, i.e., there are no tariffs or quotas.

Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade with special responsibility for Brexit. Source:

Prime Minister Theresa May has stated that the UK should negotiate its own trade agreements after Brexit, ruling out a customs union.

But Mr Coveney argued that voting to leave the EU was never explicitly a vote to leave the Customs Union or Single Market.

“I find it difficult to accept that while the options available to the UK are now being discussed, debated and negotiated, that the potential option of staying in a customs union would be taken off the table, before negotiations on trade have even commenced with the EU,” Coveney said.

“There can be no hard border. Creativity and political will is needed to ensure that this does not happen,” he added.

“There is an obvious solution, if we really value the peace and prosperity that has brought us this far. And that is for the UK to remain in an extended Customs Union and Single Market, or some version of that concept.”

Coveney said he hopes the British government will approach some of the questions regarding Brexit on the basis of persuasive argument rather than party political positioning.

“Any approach or proposal that makes sense for better relations between Ireland and Britain we are open to, on something as fundamental as our future together. However, I would respectfully hope that the UK Government can also approach some of the big questions they face, on the basis of persuasive argument, tested approaches and facts as they emerge rather than party political positioning,” Mr Coveney said.