I believe that leaving the EU means leaving the single market and the customs union because these are the main and essential elements of the Union. Furthermore, I am conscious of the fact that I was re-elected on a manifesto which clearly stated that a Conservative Government would implement the result of the referendum and in doing so, would leave both the Single Market and the Customs Union. The UK will be free to make its own trade deals after its withdrawal from the EU but it will also need to put in place new customs arrangements and remaining a member of the customs union would mean we could not make our own trade deals.
The Government has set out its position on the customs union and I am encouraged by the approach that it has taken. It wants the freest possible trade in goods with the EU and it has proposed that this be achieved either through streamlined customs arrangements or through a new customs partnership with the EU.
The first solution would involve a new customs partnership with the EU that would negate the need for a customs border with the EU. The UK would have the same requirements as the EU for imports from overseas destined for the EU. This would ensure the correct EU duties are paid but would still allow the Government to set its own tariffs for goods destined for the UK market.
The second solution would mean simplifying customs arrangements to the greatest possible degree. Unilateral and negotiated measures would remove barriers to trade and use technology to simplify customs procedures.
I would like to reassure you that maintaining safety and public confidence in the food we eat is of the highest priority. Without exception, imports must meet all the relevant UK product rules and regulations. Any future trade agreements must work for UK farmers, businesses, and consumers, and uphold food safety, animal welfare standards, and environmental protection. In addition, when it comes to products imported to the UK - quality, safety and performance will continue to be paramount.
On the specific issue of public healthcare, the Government is committed to protecting the NHS. The NHS is safeguarded by specific exemptions in all EU trade agreements and, as our country leaves the EU, the UK will continue to ensure that rigorous protections for the NHS are included in all trade agreements it is party to.
The Government is committed to transparency and scrutiny of its trade agreements. Parliament will scrutinise our future trade arrangements, as well as informing negotiations, and will be regularly updated. It will also play its role in the ratification of any new Free Trade Agreement through the process set out in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.