One of the most contentious provisions of the Prime Minister’s draft Withdrawal Agreement is the commitment to keep the United Kingdom in a customs union with the EU which we will not be able to leave without EU approval. That is supposedly necessary to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and a customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. But it also reflects strong pressure from the Treasury and Department for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS) to avoid the customs procedures which will apply to all our trade with the EU if we leave the customs union – even if we have a Canada style free trade agreement or if the UK leaves the EU on WTO terms. They claim that these customs procedures will cause unacceptable “friction” which will impose huge costs, cause damaging delays, disrupt just-in-time supply chains, undermine economic growth and provoke militant resentment on the Irish Border.
These fears are driven by a series of myths about how they think Customs procedures work.
Unfortunately, few in government or the media are familiar with them.
This paper attempts to dispel these myths…