UK still does not have infrastructure to introduce customs checks on EU imports – National Audit Office

The public spending watchdog said facilities are still not fully functional.

Photo – John Bugg, Felixstowe Port

The UK keeps delaying the introduction of full import controls on goods coming from the EU. On three different occasions, the government have paused introducing these checks – despite the EU side having them in place.

As we’ve discussed on Brexit Spotlight, whereas the Brexit project claimed to be pursuing British interests, to date it has simply created an unequal playing field that clearly favours the EU side. European goods can flow into the UK without full checks, while those moving in the other direction have to grapple with a mountain of red tape and bureaucracy. So, ironically, as it stands, Brexit is benefiting EU exporters and hurting their UK equivalents.

Now a new report from the National Audit Office has warned that the UK still lacks the infrastructure to introduce the full checks, which are due to come into force in July 2022: 

“Port representatives, such as the UK Major Ports Group, told us that they were very concerned that this work was yet to be finalised and that the government had introduced late changes to the specifications for new infrastructure, which had added additional time and cost to ports’ preparations.”

The report also argued that the delays to full checks on EU goods also created risks, and questioned whether the UK was meeting its obligation under international trade law:   

“Repeated delays to putting in place an effective border regime also leaves the UK open to potential challenge that it is not complying with international trading rules, and more likely that gaps in border controls could be exploited. In addition, they also delay the UK’s ability to collect new data on the movement of goods across its border and use these to improve its compliance regime to effectively target risk.”

Perhaps, rather than engaging in a jingoistic conflict with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the UK government could put a bit of effort into getting these facilities properly established?