The British Chambers of Commerce has again reiterated the need for a Brexit deal to be struck after the Government announced it would apply much less rigorous EU border checks on imports than it initially had planned when the Brexit transition period finishes at the end of this year.
The UK had committed to introduce import controls on EU goods in January. But ministers have agreed to phase in controls until July 2021 to give firms “time to adjust”, with customs forms and tariff fees able to be deferred.
The UK has formally ruled out seeking an extension to the transition period.
Now a “temporary light-touch regime” is planned at ports such as Dover, regardless of whether a deal is done with the EU or not.
Under the revised plan, checks on goods entering Britain will be phased-in in three stages up to the summer of 2021.
From January 1, there will be checks on controlled substances, such as alcohol and tobacco, while standard goods, such as clothes and electronics, will be subject to basic customs procedures, with firms having up to six months to complete customs declarations and pay relevant tariffs
From April 1, those importing products of animal origin, including meat, milk or egg products, will have to pre-notify officials and provide the relevant health paperwork
By July 1, all goods will be liable for relevant tariffs and customs declarations. From this moment, there will be an increase in physical checks on livestock, plants and other sanitary and phytosanitary products at ports and other entry points.
Checks on exports to the EU will be determined by Brussels.
Commenting on the ongoing negotiations between the UK and the EU, BCC Director General Dr Adam Marshall said: “Businesses need the two sides to knuckle down and agree a deal. Otherwise companies will have to spend cash they don’t have preparing for a ‘no deal’ scenario yet again, just as they try to cope with the impact of the worst economic crisis in living memory.
“Both the UK and EU need to signal a willingness to compromise when they meet next week. Allowing the present standoff to continue would be like kicking the economy when it’s already down. Livelihoods in both the UK and the EU depend on rapid moves to break the logjam.
“As we have been warning for years now, businesses still need detailed answers on a wide range of questions if they are to plan for change. That need is only intensifying as the end of the transition period comes into sight.”
On the UK Government’s plans for easements at the border, Dr Marshall added: “Companies will be pleased to see the Government adopting a pragmatic approach to customs procedures at the border. Many trading businesses were shocked when the government insisted that it would be imposing full checks and bureaucracy from day one – deal or no deal – and they will welcome this more practical and sensible approach.
“We have long campaigned for the UK government to prioritise flow across the border, not revenue or bureaucracy, when the transition period comes to an end. The very last thing ministers should seek to do is to pile new compliance costs on trading firms, who are already dealing with higher costs and lower revenues due to the Coronavirus crisis.”
Dr Marshall also welcomed the Government’s decision to provide additional funding for customs agents: “More than 150,000 traders will need support to make customs declarations for the first time, and this £50m will help to make that happen.”