Delayed UK border checks increase risk of smuggling and trade disputes

The UK government will face “significant challenges” in preparing the country’s borders for the introduction of full customs controls on EU imports next year, the government spending watchdog has warned.

In a report on the state of Britain’s borders after the Brexit transition period, the National Audit Office said the government should work hard to prepare port infrastructure and educate EU traders about the new controls.

As the EU introduced full border controls on UK exports to the bloc from January 1, the UK government has three times delayed putting in place its own controls to avoid delays at ports British.

“The government has [been] to give the priority [trade] sink on compliance. However, this cannot go on forever. The current global operating model of the EU-GB border is not sustainable, ”the watchdog warned.

The UK government has said it will start introducing controls from next January, when importers will be required to complete import declaration forms for products from Europe. EU exporters will be required to provide other documents, such as export health certificates, from July.

While commending the government for a “significant achievement” in avoiding the worst-case scenario of long border queues last January, the NAO warned that delays in instituting border controls increased the risk of trade disputes. , contraband and health problems.

“The repeated delays in putting in place an effective border regime also expose the UK to a potential challenge in which it does not comply with international trade rules, and more likely that gaps in border controls could be exploited, ”he said.

The NAO said pre-Brexit forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK’s budget watchdog, showed a porous border could cost the Treasury up to £ 600million in VAT unpaid, £ 100 million in lost alcohol and tobacco duties and £ 200 million in lost customs duties.

However, the new controls will increase red tape and strain on UK IT systems. Between January and August of this year, some 48 million customs declarations were made by traders to HM Revenue & Customs, but they are expected to increase “significantly”. HM Revenue & Customs said it has increased the capacity of its main Customs Declaration Service (CDS) system from 60 million to 200 million declarations per year

In evidence provided to the NAO, the British International Freight Association stated that “many goods, including foodstuffs” were brought into the UK without the required declarations.

The lack of data from comprehensive border checks accumulated multiple risks, the NAO said. “The longer the import controls are delayed, the longer it will take until [government] ministries can use this new information to effectively target risks, such as those related to smuggling and food security.

The report also warned that the government faced “a greater challenge” in preparing European businesses for the new controls. The NAO said the lack of preparedness of EU carriers and traders remained a “significant risk” and warned that if they “considered exporting to the UK too expensive to be worth it, it could reduce the flow and availability of food and other commodities to the UK.

Meg Hillier, chair of the powerful House of Commons public accounts committee, said leaving the EU had brought additional costs and red tape for UK businesses than EU exporters sending goods to the UK had not had to undergo.

“The delayed rollout of comprehensive import controls means the playing field is still not level for some UK companies,” she said. “The government needs to help businesses adjust to the new rules and put in place border controls that work for everyone.”

About Natalee Broderick

Natalee Broderick

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