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Leaving the Eu: Customs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:28 pm on 16th May 2018.

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Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Labour/Co-operative, Feltham and Heston 5:28 pm, 16th May 2018

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. Indeed, I believe that there are more crossings on that border than in all the other EU countries put together. That, I think, is a reality check on what is actually possible.

The practicalities of what those barriers and costs will mean can be assessed through two real-world examples, aerospace and medicines. The UK’s aerospace industry is a global success story that attracts significant investment. In my constituency, for instance, there is Boeing’s parts distribution centre in Feltham, the largest such centre in Europe. It relies on complex and globally integrated supply chains. Hundreds of aerospace parts currently flow back and forth daily across the EU’s borders to and from the UK, before being integrated into new aircraft or used to support in-service fleets. The just-in-time demands of the aerospace industry require quick and predictable border processes so that parts can reach their destination and repairs can be done in hours. Maintaining that speed for aerospace goods post Brexit is vital.

As for medicines, the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, the industry body for consumer medicines that we all know and use such as Beechams and Calpol, has said that a customs union is crucial to

“minimise the additional time and administrative burden” at the border. Ingredients for products that we use daily can cross the UK border up to four times during the manufacturing process.

We know that this debate is taking place in the absence of any credible evidence to suggest that leaving the customs union would be of net benefit to the UK. It is time to recognise that it is not an academic debate that will have no consequences, but a serious debate whose consequences could cost us billions and have an impact on jobs and prosperity for decades to come.