Brexit damaging commerce with EU, says public accounts committee


Brexit pink tape has broken Britain’s commerce with the EU and the state of affairs may worsen until the federal government works with Brussels to cut back hold-ups at UK ports, parliament’s spending watchdog has mentioned.

Solely hours after Jacob Rees-Mogg was appointed minister for Brexit alternatives, a report by the cross-party public accounts committee (PAC) mentioned border checks in place for the reason that starting of the yr had elevated enterprise prices and “suppressed” commerce with the EU.

The PAC mentioned there was a threat that the state of affairs would worsen in September, when stricter checks are applied by the EU and a forecast post-Covid restoration in international commerce will increase site visitors by means of UK ports.

Urging ministers to improve port methods and infrastructure, particularly at Dover, the committee’s chair, Meg Hillier, mentioned it had “repeatedly raised issues concerning the impression of modifications to buying and selling preparations on companies of all sizes, and we stay involved”.

The warning got here after a haulage trade boss mentioned lorry drivers might should get used to queueing for 4 hours at Dover on busy days. Mile-long queues of HGVs ready to get into the essential commerce port have been a daily sight within the first weeks of 2022.

Measures that pressure lorries to cease on the A20 to forestall Dover from changing into clogged have been applied 20 occasions already this yr, in contrast with 69 occasions in the entire of 2021.

Rod McKenzie, govt director for coverage and public affairs for the Street Haulage Affiliation, mentioned post-Brexit border checks “imply friction the place none existed” and hauliers had been changing into acquainted with lengthy delays at peak occasions.

Underneath the phrases of the Brexit deal negotiated by Boris Johnson in December 2020, the EU launched full import controls in January 2022 after a yearlong transition interval. The UK authorities supposed to do the identical, however has delayed 3 times during the last yr and the PAC report mentioned officers couldn’t give a “full assurance that it might not achieve this once more”.

“A lot stays to be executed to introduce import controls, and specifically to make sure that merchants and hauliers throughout the 27 EU member states are prepared because the controls are phased in,” the report added.

As a part of the improve, the UK should adapt port gear and border checks by September to keep away from big disruption to holidaymakers and haulage companies when the EU switches to biometric id checks that may pressure travellers to exit their autos.

Hillier mentioned the federal government claimed it might develop “the best border on this planet” by 2025, which she described as a “noteworthy ambition”, however “it’s optimistic, given the place issues stand right this moment”.

She added: “One of many nice guarantees of Brexit was releasing British companies to offer them the headroom to maximise their productiveness and contribution to the financial system – much more desperately wanted now on the lengthy street to restoration from the pandemic. But the one detectable impression to date is elevated prices, paperwork and border delays.

“The PAC has repeatedly reported on Brexit preparedness and at each step there have been delays to promised deadlines. It’s time the federal government was trustworthy concerning the issues quite than overpromising.”

Dwelling Workplace officers are in talks with the French authorities about the way to function the brand new controls with out inflicting queues, however the report described them as “at an early stage”.

Forecasts of the prices to companies are anticipated to be lowered, although it isn’t clear by how a lot, the report mentioned.

In 2019, HMRC estimated that complying with new customs guidelines may value UK and EU companies £15bn a yr. “HMRC informed us in November that it had not up to date its 2019 estimate, however that there are indications that the prices to companies shall be lower than that estimate,” the report mentioned.

The federal government mentioned it was persevering with to interact with EU companions to make sure that border preparations work.


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