British voters last year settled the question of whether or not to leave the European Union by choosing Brexit. But that’s not the only stay-or-go question. The government is split over how close a partnership with the rest of Europe to maintain on trade. Prime Minister Theresa May said on Jan. 17 that she wants to pull the U.K. out of the single market, the economic backbone of the world’s largest free-trade area. Even so, some officials hope to keep the U.K. in Europe’s customs union, which lets its exporters trade tariff-free with the bloc. Others want Britain to leave so it can land free-trade pacts with countries elsewhere.
It requires that its members impose no tariffs on goods traded among each other, and sets a common duty on goods of non-members. It also limits checks and other bureaucracies at borders between members. The customs union has leverage when it negotiates deals with the rest of the world because it speaks for a bloc of 500 million people.