The UK government’s plan for Brexit has taken another blow this week as the Dutch finance minister and head of the Eurogroup (an informal body composed of all the Eurozone finance ministers) Jeroen Dijsselbloem described Boris Johnson’s vision for Brexit as “intellectually impossible”. In an interview with a Czech newspaper, the British foreign secretary had previously claimed that the UK could remain a member of the European Single Market and trade freely with the EU, even if the UK did leave the tariff-free Customs Union.

EU leaders rubbish Tory Brexit plan

But Dijsselbloem was quick to put the kibosh on such a plan, saying that Johnson was attempting to present the British (or, in this instance, Czech) public with “options that are really not available”. The Dutch minister was appearing on the BBC’s Newsnight programme when he was asked about the former mayor of London’s comments. Dijsselbloem was especially critical of Johnson’s claim that Britain could leave the Customs Union but remain in the Single Market, a state of affairs described as “intellectually impossible” and “politically unavailable” by the Eurogroup president.

Saying that it was simply impossible for a member of the European Single Market not to also be a member of the Customs Unions, the Dutch finance minister stated that the closest available option to Johnson’s vision was that enjoyed by Turkey, which is not a member of the Single Market but is part of the Customs Union, allowing Turkish goods to be imported into the EU without tariffs.

“The opposite does exist. We have a customs union with Turkey but Turkey is not part of the internal market”, said Disjsselbloem, in reference to Johnson’s comments.

Government warned against 'hard Brexit'

The foreign secretary’s comments yesterday came after Whitehall officials had told members of the Cabinet that departing the Customs Union could cause serious economic harm, as it would result in extra border checks, increased bureaucracy, and charges on British goods entering the EU. For those hoping that Theresa May’s government does have a firm plan for its negotiations with the EU, the events of the last few days are unlikely to inspire renewed confidence.