Brexit border checks delayed again as Rees-Mogg admits they would cost £1bn

28 April 2022, 18:19

Brexit border checks abandoned as Jacob Rees-Mogg admits they would cost £1bn. Picture: Alamy

By Liam Gould

The Government has delayed plans for a fourth time to impose further checks on EU goods entering the UK as Jacob Rees-Mogg admitted the move would cost £1bn.

The Brexit Opportunities Minister said it would be "wrong to impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports" and added that no further import controls would be imposed on EU goods this year.

Mr Rees-Mogg said a "new regime of border import controls" will be established by the end of 2023 - despite it being the fourth time the plans have been pushed back.

Fears of rising inflation and the ongoing war in Ukraine have been blamed as the main reasons for the delay.

Goods moving from the UK will continue to be subject to checks in the EU, despite the Government deciding not to introduce the controls in Britain.

Controls which already exist on the UK borders will continue.

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In a statement to MPs, Mr Rees-Mogg said: "When the UK left the European Union, we regained the right to manage our own borders in a way that works for Britain.

"British businesses and people going about their daily lives are being hit by rising costs caused by Russia's war in Ukraine and in energy prices.

He added: "It would therefore be wrong to impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports and to supply chains at this point.

"The remaining import controls on EU goods will no longer be introduced this year - saving British businesses up to £1 billion in annual costs."

The new border regime will apply equally to goods from the EU and from the rest of the world.

Mr Rees-Mogg said it will be based on "a proper assessment of risk, with a proportionate, risk-based and technologically advanced approach to controls."

The controls which have been scrapped include controls over the import of chilled meats from the EU, safety and security declarations, and checks on plant and animal products.

But, port operators and farming groups expressed frustration that time and money spent preparing for the new checks has been "wasted" despite the government promising to have "the world's best border."

Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, said: "Many ports have been working incredibly hard and have invested over £100 million of their own money to build a network of brand new border checks to meet the requirements the Government has been insisting on for several years.

"This now looks like wasted time, effort and money to develop what we fear will be highly bespoke white elephants. "Government needs to engage urgently with ports to agree how the substantial investments made in good faith can be recovered."

Mr Rees-Mogg said a "new regime of border import controls" will be established by the end of 2023. Picture: Alamy

Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the The Food and Drink Federation, welcomed the move in the context of supply chain disruption caused by the pandemic and the Ukraine war.

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"While businesses have already spent a good deal of time and money preparing for the new border regime, we welcome the clarity today's announcement brings.

"The UK Government must now work with industry to design a new, modern and innovative border system which brings genuine benefits to businesses and consumers."

A Downing Street spokesperson denied it was edging towards a position where it would accept EU controls.

"That is not the approach we are taking. We are using the flexibility that the UK Government has to decide how and when to introduce this approach," they said.

"We think there is more work to do on a new model that better utilises data and technology. We are still committed to introducing these checks."