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Michael Gove announces post-Brexit border checks delay

Michael Gove announces Britain will delay the introduction of post-Brexit checks on some goods from the EU for six months due to Covid chaos

  • Michael Gove said introduction of controls on some EU imports will be delayed
  • Minister for the Cabinet Office said delay has been caused by Covid disruption
  • The border controls were due to be phased in over first six months of this year
  • But Mr Gove said full border control processes will now be in place January 2022

Michael Gove today announced Britain will delay the introduction of post-Brexit border controls on some imports from the European Union because of coronavirus disruption. 

The Government had agreed to phase in customs requirements for GB imports from the EU over a six-month period in the first half of 2021. 

But the Government has now extended the timetable by a further six months after businesses said they needed more time to prepare. 

Full border control processes will now be introduced on January 1 2022 – six months later than originally planned.

Mr Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, told MPs the initial timetable was based on the impact of the first wave of coronavirus, but that ‘we know now that the disruption caused by Covid has lasted longer and has been deeper than we anticipated’.

Michael Gove today announced Britain will delay the introduction of post-Brexit border controls on some imports from the European Union because of coronavirus disruption

The Government had agreed to phase in customs requirements for GB imports from the EU over a six-month period in the first half of 2021

In a written statement, he said: ‘Although we recognise that many in the border industry and many businesses have been investing time and energy to be ready on time, and indeed we in Government were confident of being ready on time, we have listened to businesses who have made a strong case that they need more time to prepare.

‘In reviewing the timeframes, we have given strong weight to the disruption which has been caused, and is still being caused, by Covid, and the need to ensure that the economy can recover fully.’

Under the revised timetable, pre-notification requirements for products of animal origin, certain animal by-products and High Risk Food Not Of Animal Origin will not be required until October 1 2021.

Customs import declarations will still be required, but the option to use the deferred declaration scheme has been extended to January 1 2022.

And from March 2022, checks at border control posts will take place on live animals and low-risk plants and plant products.

Cabinet Office minister Lord Frost of Allenton said: ‘As a sovereign trading nation outside the EU, we have freedom to take decisions in our national interest – and in the interest of our businesses.

‘We will now introduce border controls broadly six months later than planned to give traders time to focus on getting back on their feet as the economy opens up after a difficult year.

‘We are confident that this new timetable will allow import businesses to re-establish their trading arrangements after a difficult period due to coronavirus, in the most straightforward and lightest touch way possible.’ 

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said he welcomed the delay but said it can ‘only be a temporary solution’.

He said: ‘What businesses want to see is an end to the damaging political rhetoric from both sides, and a focus on improving border flow for the long term.

‘The UK and the EU must get back around the table and thrash out the remaining structural problems in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement.

‘For some UK firms, the continued problems with EU trade are threatening their very existence.

‘It should not be the case that companies simply have to give up on importing from, or exporting to, the market next door.’

The move came as the food industry warned of further barriers to trading with the EU and Northern Ireland, which largely follows Brussels’ rules under the terms of the Brexit deal.

Measures coming into force on April 21 will require a far wider range of goods sent to the bloc from ‘third countries’ such as the UK to have an export health certificate.

The Food and Drink Federation’s Ian Wright said: ‘Right now we don’t know how many products will be affected because the EU hasn’t been specific yet or definitive on what the list will include.

‘But it will include a whole range of what are called composite products – things like cheese and onion crisps and indeed items like chocolate biscuits – which will need … a vet’s stamp and an export health certificate and an attestation as to where the milk in the product was pasteurised.’

He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: ‘I think it will mean – particularly in relation to Northern Ireland – that many exporters will just decide it’s not worth the candle.’    

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