The Institute of Directors (IOD) new policy paper, https://www.iod.com/Portals/0/PDFs/Campaigns%20and%20Reports/Europe%20and%20trade/IoD-Customising-Brexit.pdf?ver=2018-02-15-083137-800, advances the case for a new bespoke partial customs union. It would allow tariff-free and frictionless trade in manufactured products and in processed agricultural products, but raw primary agricultural produce would be excluded from the arrangement.
Such a partial arrangement, the IOD argues, would lift the threat that the UK manufacturing firms will face costly ‘rules of origin’ requirements when the UK exits the CU on Brexit day – rules that would impact particularly across the manufactured product sectors. But, at the same time, it would provide scope for the UK to forge its own trade policy by seeking free trade deals with non-EU countries across other areas, most notably allowing the the UK to lower or remove tariffs on raw agricultural products from the world’s poorest countries.
The example of Turkey, which is currently part of a partial customs union with the EU that excludes agriculture, and, as it is outside the single market (SM), services, is highlighted as a possible model.
Such a bespoke partial customs union arrangement, similarly to a Norway-Plus arrangement, would involve a UK departure from the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies.
The IOD proposal, however, appears to accept SM exit without considering many of the inter-relationships between a CU and the SM. While the UK could could commit to continuing regulatory alignment for manufactured and processed agricultural goods, but that would still leave open the question on how movement of people between N.Ireland and the rest of UK could be handled given a combination of UK repudiation of SM free movement of people and an open Eire/N.Ireland border; nor does it address the rule-taker problem of having to accept EU regulations without the UK having a formal say in their construction and implementation.
Nor is the economic and social impact of removing or lowering agricultural tariffs on the the domestic agricultural sector modeled or discussed. Most significantly, perhaps, is that the incompatibility of agricultural tariffs with an open NI-Eire border is not addressed.
Another problem is that Turkey is a rule-taker in that it has no say on trade deals that the EU makes with third party countries, and does not benefit from reduced tariffs made under such deals. Such a partial customs union could possibly be complemented by a wide-ranging parallel free trade agreement with the EU across such areas not covered in the partial bespoke CU new agreement, however.