Claim a Customs Union deal means not leaving the EU is False 3

Claim a Customs Union deal means not leaving the EU is False

Richard Madeley has waded into the Brexit debate, after an exchange with a campaigner on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

The presenter was interviewing Femi Oluwole, an anti-Brexit activist and supporter of a second referendum.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotlands impartial fact check project

During their debate, Madeley suggested that a deal which involved staying in the Customs Union did not amount to leaving the European Union.

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it to be False.


The various different possible outcomes for Brexit are still being debated, as the UK and European Union remain without a negotiated deal.

Theresa May agreed an extension, currently until 31 October 2019, as she attempts to get a deal through at Westminster.

MPs rejected all four options in the most recent round of voting. The one which gained the most support was Ken Clarke’s Common Market deal. This would mean agreeing to “negotiate a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU” before leaving.

How did Scottish MPs vote over Brexit?

In the debate on Good Morning Britain, People’s Vote campaigner Femi Oluwole advocated a public vote between a negotiated Brexit or remaining in the EU. This would remove the option of ‘no deal’.

This was challenged by Richard Madeley, who argued that if a negotiated deal included remaining in the Customs Union, it would not amount to leaving the EU.

This is not correct. The Customs Union is the trade bloc of the European Union, allowing countries within the area to trade easily with each other, and also operating a standard system of customs duties (tax on imported goods and services) for importing outwith the bloc.

It is a central part of the way the EU operates and allows goods to travel easily within the area. All the customs union members are part of the EU except for Monaco and some British sovereign base areas who do most of their business through the UK and France.

Turkey, Andorra and San Marino, who are not EU members, have negotiated Customs Union arrangements with the EU, allowing them access to the trade bloc, although some things are excluded.

If the UK was able to negotiate a deal to stay within the Customs Union, it would likely not be allowed to negotiate other bilateral trade deals. This has been a controversial point for many Brexit supporters and campaigners, who see remaining within the Customs Union as a hindrance to Britain’s economic independence.

Exiting the Customs Union means Britain striking its own bilateral trade agreements with countries across the globe. In a no deal scenario, the UK would fall back to existing World Trade Organisation rules, which would mean significant tariffs on UK imports and exports.

Ken Clarke’s approach would see the UK negotiating a Customs Union with the EU, however it is not yet clear what this would result in, and what the EU would be willing to accept. Currently the EU has customs arrangements with Turkey, Andorra and San Marino.

However, the Customs Union forms only one part of membership of the EU and it is possible to be part of the bloc without being a member of the EU. Whether or not the UK manages to negotiate a Customs Union deal as part of a Theresa May’s negotiations, the UK would still be ending its membership of European Union.

The UK would not send MEPs to the European Parliament, would not be bound by many EU regulations and would not take an active role within EU decision making.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: False

Richard Madeley’s claim that staying in the Customs Union would mean the UK not leaving the EU is false. It is possible to be part of a customs union with the European Union without being a member of the European Union. Therefore, a brexit deal that includes remaining in a customs union arrangement would not require the UK to remain a member of the European Union and would not, on its own, be equivalent to full membership.

This claim is false

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at or join our Facebook group.

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