Michel Barnier has confirmed there will be customs controls in the EU from January 1, even though the UK won’t be ready for full border checks until July. This has sparked fears that there could be chaos on the UK border for the six months post-Brexit, especially following a leaked letter from Liz Truss raising similar concerns. Labour’s Hilary Benn, Chair of the Future Relationship with the EU Committee, warned BBC Newsnight that a border plan was needed “very urgently”.
He said: “I think the much bigger question is, as one witness put it to us, ‘we’re not ready and we’re not entirely sure what we need to be ready for’.
“At the start of the year, Michael Gove told businesses there’d be full checks in place from January 1.
“Remember, whether there’s an agreement or there isn’t an agreement, these checks are going to be happening.
“Yet in June, the Government said when it comes to goods coming into the UK from the EU, we’re not going to have full checks from the start of next year. That was an admission that we aren’t ready.”
READ MORE: Lord Heseltine savaged as Remainer claims UK still ‘hanging by thread’
Mr Benn continued: “Why is that a problem? When goods come in they need to be checked. Anyone who’s been to Dover knows the lorries come off the ferries and they’re on the motorway and there isn’t any room to pull any lorries aside and check them.
“We took evidence that the Government thinks they will have to build new facilities to do those inwards checks, but they haven’t even built them yet.
“Then we have the other problem, which is goods leaving the UK going into the EU where the checks, as Michel Barnier made clear, will start from January 1.
“That is going to cost business money because filling in a customs declaration and other paperwork will give them an expense they don’t have at the moment. It’s the last thing they need when they’re having to cope with coronavirus.”
In the reportedly leaked 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 claims the plans could break international trading rules and harm the UK’s reputation at the WTO.
However, Mr Benn dismissed the idea: “I’m less concerned about the WTO because their dispute resolution mechanism has some problems at the moment.
“By the time that any complaint worked its way through, the end of June would arrive.”
A Government representative has said of the letter: “We do not comment on leaks.”