- The UK government is reportedly set to scrap tough plans for checks on all EU goods from next year.
- Michael Gove had said that all EU goods would face checks in the absence of a free trade deal at the end of the Brexit transition period.
- Business groups warned the government that this would result in extra cost and bureaucracy.
- Businesses are also struggling to prepare for new trading arrangements with the EU while dealing with the impact of COVID-19.
- Now Boris Johnson’s government plans to minimise checks on goods coming from the EU, according to The Financial Times, in a major U-turn in its Brexit policy.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Boris Johnson’s government is reportedly set to scrap its plans to apply full checks on goods coming from the European Union immediately after the end of the Brexit transition period in December.
The UK government insisted earlier this year that the UK would full apply checks and controls to all goods coming from the EU from next year if the two sides had not negotiated a free trade deal by then.
However, business groups warned the UK government that this would mean significant new costs for firms which import and export goods across the border, and that businesses would struggle to prepare for these changes.
Full checks in EU goods will reportedly now be delayed until later in the year, according to the Finacial Times.
Asked about the plans to delay border checks, a spokesperson for Johnson said on Friday that “I think it’s fair to say these are unprecedented times. We obviously recognise the impact COVID-19 has had on UK businesses and that’s why we seeking a pragmatic and flexible approach to help business adjust to changes.”
UK preparation for potentially leaving the EU without a free trade deal has also been hampered by the outbreak of the coronavirus, with most businesses unable to work on Brexit while dealing with the impact of COVID-19.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove is expected to announce on Friday that the UK government now plans to minimise the number of checks on goods coming from the EU as of January, in order to reduce cost and bureaucracy for UK businesses.
The Financial Times reports that under the government’s new plans, checks on agri-food and goods of animal origin will be waived, as will safety & security declarations. Customs checks are also to be watered down.
This system is set to be temporary, with no word yet on exactly how long the UK government plans for it to be in place.
It also only covers imports, meaning businesses that export to the EU still face a number of costly checks.
The move represents a significant U-turn from Johnson’s government ahead of a crunch meeting on Monday.
Prime Minister Johnson will meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, and European Parliament President David Sassoli, to take stock of negotiations over a new free trade deal, which started earlier this year.
Negotiators have made little progress, with talks stalling over disagreements over fisheries, state aid, and what Brussels calls level playing field provisions — a set of rules meant to prevent businesses in the UK from undercutting the EU and vice versa.
The UK and EU on Thursday agreed to “intensify” negotiations after failing to make a breakthrough.
UK and EU negotiators will meet in person once a week throughout July in an attempt to thrash out a deal before the Brexit transition period expires at the end of December. The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced negotiators to meet over video conference since the beginning of the pandemic.
Johnson is insistent that the UK will not extend the transition period, despite a number of warnings about the damage leaving the EU without a free trade deal would do the economy and businesses.
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, on Thursday said that a free trade deal with the EU was the only acceptable outcome for the UK, warning that “many businesses are fighting to survive as the impact of COVID-19 unfolds.”
She said: “Walking away with no deal would be a major block to recovery.
“It would worsen inequalities, damaging regional and national growth.
“Many businesses are not – and cannot – prepare for the impact of a no deal on top of what is happening.”
The government’s decision to bin plans for full border checks has been welcomed across the business world.
However, concerns remain over UK readiness for January 2021, and what will happen to Britain’s borders once this temporary system is removed.
Speaking to the House of Commons’ Brexit committee on Wednesday, customs expert Anna Jerzewska told committee chair Hilary Benn “we’re not ready and we’re not entirely sure what we need to be ready for.”
She also warned that any trade deal between the UK and EU will likely be finalised “towards the end of the year,” leaving the government and businesses just weeks to prepare for new trading arrangements.
“The question is when a deal is reached and what happens once it’s reached,” she told the committee.
“At the end of the day, how it’s implemented will determine whether it’s successful or not.”
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