The EU Commission has unveiled its plan for the end of the Brexit transition period, prompting concerns about the UK-EU border arrangements. Despite being set to leave the EU at the end of the year, the UK has announced that full border controls on goods will not come into effect until next July. Conservative MP Peter Bone rubbished concerns that the delay could lead to risks of smuggling when he was confronted by a leaked letter from Liz Truss on BBC Newsnight.
In the letter, the International Trade Secretary privately raises concerns that Boris Johnson’s plans could lead to smuggling from the EU and face a legal challenge from the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Ms Truss also demands assurances that the UK will be able to deliver full control of ports by July 2021, and that the plans are in place from January to avoid smuggling.
Mr Bone dismissed concerns about smuggling for the six months post-Brexit.
He also clarified that he had not seen the letter and wasn’t even sure it had been confirmed as written by Ms Truss.
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Mr Bone told the BBC: “You’re saying as though Liz Truss definitely said this.
“The truth of the matter is you don’t catch smugglers by a chap at the border with a peak cap on looking under the tarpaulin of a lorry and saying, ‘Ahah, you shouldn’t have that stuff, we caught you’.
“Smuggling is detected by intelligence, and that will continue as always. So the idea that there would be increased smuggling, I think, is really wrong.
“That really, I thought, is a very weak argument to challenge the Government’s case.”
Face-to-face Brexit talks have resumed for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit the world.
The deadline for a transition period extension passed on July 1, meaning that the UK will leave the EU at the end of December with or without a deal. In either case, border checks will be happening.
In the leaked letter, Ms Truss expressed key areas of concern with the Government’s border control plans to senior cabinet members.
Among smuggling and a WTO challenge, she added there could be undermining of the UK’s international trade policy and issues with Northern Ireland.
A Government representative has said: “We do not comment on leaks.”