20 May 2024, 10:06

UK plagued by post-Brexit customs uncertainty: report

LONDON, May 20, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Britain's post-Brexit border with the EU
has been plagued by chronic delays and uncertainty, ramping up costs for
businesses and the government, the nation's spending watchdog said on Monday.

The UK departed from the European Union in January 2021 following a
standstill transition period but has still yet to complete full
implementation of post-Brexit customs controls.

"The UK leaving the EU created a large-scale change in arrangements for the
movement of goods across the border," said National Audit Office (NAO) boss
Gareth Davies in a report on the situation.

"However, more than three years after the end of the transition period, it is
still not clear when full controls will be in place."

When the UK left the European single market and customs union on January 1,
2021, the EU immediately implemented customs controls for goods heading from
the United Kingdom into the bloc.

But the UK government has delayed the introduction of customs checks five
times for goods heading into the country, citing delays with infrastructure
and technology.

Controls on imports of food, plant and animal products from the EU, have now
belatedly begun but not in their entirety.

UK businesses have complained that the lack of checks on EU imports put their
continental competitors at an advantage and that they are having to pass on
higher administration costs to customers.

"Government has repeatedly changed and deferred its plans for the
introduction of full import controls following the UK's exit from the
European Union," the NAO report added on Monday.

"This has caused uncertainty for businesses and extra costs for government
and ports."

The NAO also slammed the UK government for having "no clear timetable" for
finalising full controls.

- 'Administrative burdens' -

"Since the UK left the EU, border processes have operated largely as
intended, but traders face increasing additional costs and administrative
burdens," it said.

"Government intends to introduce most of the remaining import controls during
2024 but it is still not clear when full controls will be in place."

Britain will have spent at least o4.7 billion to implement new border
arrangements and improve the border -- of which o2.6 billion had been spent
by March 2023 -- yet still has no plan for a "full" customs regime, according
to the watchdog.

"The repeated delays in introducing import controls, and difficulties
forecasting requirements, have resulted in government expenditure on
infrastructure and staff that were ultimately not needed," it added.

"Late announcements about policy and uncertainty about the implementation of
controls have also reduced the ability of businesses and ports to prepare for

However, a government spokesperson said that "we are making good progress,
having successfully rolled out new checks in January and April this year
while taking a pragmatic approach which minimises disruption.

"To support traders, we are also launching the Single Trade Window, a single
secure gateway, which will make it easier for traders to provide information
to government when importing goods," added the spokesperson.

Britain voted to leave the EU in a knife-edge 2016 referendum after
Brexiteers, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, promised "sunlit
uplands" of economic prosperity.

Last year, the government's independent fiscal watchdog, the Office for
Budget Responsibility, forecast that the UK's Brexit trade deal with Brussels
would reduce long-term productivity by 4.0 percent compared to when the
country was a member.





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