Stephen Farry said: “This is the first recognition of reality from the UK Government on Brexit. It cannot jump off a cliff in less than two years’ time, in terms of trading links, and with no infrastructure in place to handle customs. But all the Government is doing is simply delaying going that cliff-edge. It is has no coherent economic plan.
“The absence of a full Customs Union with the EU will require some form of physical border on the island of Ireland, with all of the economic, political and security implications that will flow from that. Even the UK is accepting now that the rhetoric of frictionless and seamless border was over-optimistic, but it is still not realistic on the constraints of technological solutions.
“For the UK as a whole, it is madness to cut itself from a Customs Union with the European Union in the hope of cutting other deals with different parts of the world. There is not a choice to be made between countervailing objectives in that it is through working from within the European Union that the UK is likely to expand its trade, with EU free trade deals being agreed with Canada and Japan in recent times. Any free trade relationship with the EU will be less favourable that the current situation, and will require physical customs frontiers.
“A permanent bespoke Customs Union should one component of any economically rational long-term relationship between the UK with the European Union, short of it actually remaining a member. The sooner the UK Government listens to business and other voices and comes to this conclusion, the better it will be for all.”