The background facts: In 2016 £382 bn of goods were traded between the UK and EU largely Roll on-Roll off mostly passing through Dover and Channel Tunnel with less than 1% requiring custom checks today. With the rest of the world £393 bn, largely container shipping through ports like Southampton. Customs processing can start as goods leave factories and continue whilst at sea. Customs has become intelligence led enabling less than 3% of documentary checks required. The Single Market has driven harmonised or equivalent regulation. The Customs Union ensures goods can move without tariffs. This preferential treatment can be given to certain third countries based on free trade agreements, bilateral co-operation agreements or custom unions.

The common approach to customs extends to ICT systems for intelligence led customs with rapid sharing of data critical to risk assessment and certification. This is in place and functioning unlike any third country.

This enables the UK to continue to frictionless trade whist transitioning to a preferential third country over a reasonable time frame consistent with the 27 pages of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) Political Declaration with the common objectives of regulatory arrangement and customs arrangements for frictionless free trade. Continued use of shared data and systems for intelligence led customs will underpin the new relationship.

The UK exit as a full political member of the EU can have a frictionless transition period unless the EU decide to impose an ICT systems shut down to create the famous customs “cliff edge”. This would be a reckless action of the EU to ensure maximum pain felt by Brexit as a warning to the remaining 27.
This action by the EU would create the very tension in NI they claim they wish to avoid.

Allowing the existing systems to perform the regulatory and customs functions as they do today for a transition period avoids the need for any EU controlled “backstop agreement”.

If the EU are true to their aims in the Withdrawal Agreement, there is no reason to believe final agreement within an agreed transition cannot be achieved.

Sources of data:
HM Government: The Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration
IFG Analysis: Implementing Brexit: Customs