Get ready for ‘inevitable’ post-Brexit checks at the border, Michael Gove tells businesses
The UK Cabinet minister, who is expected to play a key role in planning for the end of the current transition period with the EU, said “almost everybody” would face extra barriers at the border.
The Government confirmed that import controls will be brought in on EU goods at the border once the transition period – which currently sees the UK stay closely aligned to the bloc – expires on 31 December.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Government’s Border Delivery Group, Mr Gove confirmed that traders from both the EU and Britain would have to submit customs declarations and be liable to face goods’ checks at the UK border.
“The UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union, so we will have to be ready for the customs procedures and regulatory checks that will inevitably follow,” he said.
“As a result of that we will be in a stronger position, not just to make sure that our economy succeeds outside the European Union but that we are in a position to take advantage of new trading relationships with the rest of the world.”
And he told businesses: “You have to accept we will need some friction. We will minimise it, but it is an inevitability of our departure.”
Mr Gove added: “I don’t underestimate the fact that this is a significant change, but we have time now to make that change.”
The move has already sparked concern from some business groups, with the British Retail Consortium urging ministers to set out detailed plans to ensure that vital goods still flow to consumers.
The group’s director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “Government will need to move fast if it intends to provide the necessary infrastructure to carry out full border controls on imported goods from January 2021.
“Without the necessary infrastructure up and running from day one, consumers in the UK will see significant disruption, particularly in the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables.
“Staff will need to be hired and trained to carry out these checks on the thousands of lorries that enter the UK every day.
“IT systems must be adapted and tested. Holding facilities for lorries, particularly at Dover and Folkestone, will need to be constructed.
“It is not enough to announce checks will take place, we must see plans now as to how this will be possible in practice, or it will be consumers who suffer on January 1.”
The Freight Transport Association’s UK policy director Elizabeth de Jong meanwhile said: “Mr Gove put to rest [Chancellor] Sajid Javid’s assertion that industry had plenty of time to prepare.”
She added: “As representatives of the logistics industry, we are naturally disappointed that the promise of frictionless trade has been replaced with a promise that trade will be as seamless as possible but not until 2025, with a more realistic but costly ‘make do and mend’ approach to be employed until then.
“Industry will need the support of Government during this period to keep Britain trading effectively.”