U.K. Races to Fix ‘Critical Gaps’ in Brexit Border Plan – Yahoo Finance
Boris Johnson’s officials are urgently working to avert a major border crisis when the U.K. leaves the European Union’s trade regime, amid warnings vital government IT systems may not be ready in time.
According to a leaked document, ministers are asking hauliers and other industry groups for help to avoid chaos at the border when the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.
But with just four months to go, the government’s preparations still have “critical gaps” while some parts of blueprint are “unmanageable,” the document said.
The warnings are contained in a government official’s note of a meeting with representatives of the logistics industry, who set out their grave concerns over the dangers ahead.
The memo, circulated by the Cabinet Office’s Border and Protocol Delivery Group, lists 13 key risks to be flagged to ministers, including a lack of contingency planning in case things go wrong, and inadequate time to prepare. High on the list of concerns were the proliferation of new IT systems and the fact some of these are still being developed with just four months until they’re needed.
“There are up to 10 new systems that haulage firms and freight forwarders will have to navigate from Jan.
1, including at least three being designed now,” the memo said. “This is completely unnecessary and unmanageable with duplication and overlap.”
In a sign that Michael Gove, the minister responsible for the U.K.’s Brexit preparations, is growing increasingly worried about the threat of border disruption, his team is setting up meetings with logistics experts to address the issues raised by the industry.
On Wednesday, the Road Haulage Association and other logistics lobby groups wrote to Gove seeking an urgent round-table not just with him, but with Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to press their concerns.
“We have visibility of the current state of preparedness which as it stands has significant gaps,” the trade groups wrote. “If these issues are not addressed, disruption to U.K. business and the supply chain that we all rely so heavily on will be severely disrupted.”
A U.K official acknowledged there are problems raised by the industry that need to be solved. In a statement, the Cabinet Office said it has worked closely with the the sector to develop its plans and will continue to do so. The government also said it is spending more on infrastructure and training intermediaries needed to handle the hundreds of millions of extra customs declarations that are expected to be required each year.
The risk of border trade disruption threatens to become a winter crisis for the prime minister, as he tries to negotiate a new trade accord with the EU. Whether or not the U.K. manages to strike a free-trade agreement with the bloc, from Jan.
1 it will have to apply customs controls on goods moving to the EU, which accounts for about half of all Britain’s imports and exports. With the government ruling out any delay to the U.K.’s departure from the bloc, the pressure to find a solution is building.
As many as 10,000 trucks a day pass through ports such as Dover, delivering goods ranging from fresh food to medicines and automotive parts.
About four-fifths of the food U.K. supermarkets import comes from the EU, according to the British Retail Consortium.
Delays in processing the paperwork needed after Brexit could throw those supply chains into chaos, threatening traffic jams at ports and heaping more economic damage on a country still reeling from the coronavirus.
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