UK dilutes post-Brexit strict border check plan due to COVID-19 impact
The UK government unveiled a reviewed, less rigorous border-check plan with the European Union on Friday to take into account the economic impact of the coronavirus lockdown on businesses, as it confirmed that the country would not extend the transition period beyond the December 31, 2020 deadline.
London- The UK government unveiled a reviewed, less rigorous border-check plan with the European Union on Friday to take into account the economic impact of the coronavirus lockdown on businesses, as it confirmed that the country would not extend the transition period beyond the December 31, 2020 deadline.
The announcement follows Friday's meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee, the last formal moment to agree any extension to the 11-month Brexit transition period triggered on January 31 this year.
In February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson led government had announced that it would implement full border controls on all imports coming into Britain from the EU.
The UK Cabinet Office, however, said that recognising the impact of the pandemic on businesses' ability to prepare for changes, the UK has taken the decision to instead introduce the new border controls in three staggered stages between January and July 2021.
It said the new stage-wise "flexible and pragmatic approach" will give industry extra time to make necessary arrangements.
"We have informed the EU today that we will not extend the Transition Period. The moment for extension has now passed," said UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.
"At the end of this year we will control our own laws and borders which is why we are able to take the sovereign decision to introduce arrangements in a way that gives businesses impacted by coronavirus time to adjust," he said.
From January 2021, traders importing standard goods, covering everything from clothes to electronics, will need to prepare for basic customs requirements, such as keeping sufficient records of imported goods, and will have up to six months to complete customs declarations.
While tariffs will need to be paid on all imports, payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made. There will be checks on controlled goods like alcohol and tobacco.
Businesses will also need to consider how they account for VAT on imported goods. There will also be physical checks at the point of destination or other approved premises on all high-risk live animals and plants.
In the second stage from April 2021, all products of animal origin (POAO) for example meat, pet food, honey, milk or egg products and all regulated plants and plant products will also require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation.
And, finally, from July 2021, traders moving all goods will have to make declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs.
"Full Safety and Security declarations will be required, while for SPS [Sanitary and Phytosanitary] commodities there will be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples: checks for animals, plants and their products will now take place at British Border Control Posts," the Cabinet Office said.
A new 50-million pound government support package is aimed at boosting the capacity of the customs intermediary sector including customs brokers, freight forwarders and express parcel operators providing businesses with further support ahead of the new processes taking effect in July 2021.
This funding will support intermediaries with recruitment, training and supplying IT equipment to help handle customs declarations. Rules will also be changed to remove barriers for intermediaries taking on new clients, the Cabinet Office said.
The government said that in total, it has now provided 84 million pounds to grow the customs intermediary sector to encompass EU trade after 2020.
"The logistics industry is extremely grateful for the measures announced by the UK government to stage the introduction of new trading arrangements between the EU and UK in the first six months after the Transition Period," said Elizabeth de Jong, Policy Director at the Freight Transport Association.
They have listened to our concerns and made allowances to enable our sector to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and plan effectively so that we can continue to trade effectively with Europe, she said.
"Additionally, the government has committed today to building new border facilities in GB for carrying out required checks, such as customs compliance, transit, and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks, as well as providing targeted support to ports to build new infrastructure.
"Where there is no space at ports for new infrastructure, the government will build new inland sites where these checks and other activities will take place. The government is consulting with ports across the UK to agree what infrastructure is required," Jong said.
Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association, added:
"This is very welcome news and we are pleased the government has taken a sensible and pragmatic approach to the problem after listening to stakeholders such as the RHA".
"The government will continue to work closely with the border industry on these new procedures as well as other sector priorities. A border operating model will be published in July 2020," Burnett said.