UK ports preparing for EU customs checks
According to the BBC, plans are being drafted within the shipping industry to accommodate EU border checks in Great Britain for goods heading to Northern Ireland.
The BBC says that according to a leaked document from the Department for Exiting the European Union, goods could be diverted through ports which can accommodate inspections despite previous government reassurances that such trade checks would not be necessary.
Customs staff at these ports could include EU representatives under the terms of the revised Withdrawal Agreement.
The alleged document outlined a need for “facilities for high levels of checks and controls” as one of the requirements of the new Brexit deal, needing to be in place by December 2020, Boris Johnson’s self-imposed cut-off point for the Brexit transitional period.
The freight sector is now planning to accommodate this despite Boris Johnson’s claim that checks on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland would not be needed.
One expert told the BBC that there was an “implicit understanding” that checks on food produce would take place in Great Britain.
Exactly what the border checks will consist of is dependent on the degree of UK-EU regulatory alignment after Brexit, which will be decided during the period of transition between the UK government and the EU Joint Committee.
Much of this will depend on whether UK authorities will accept risks to security and revenue in order to maintain frictionless trade, while technology may also be used to alleviate physical checks as Boris Johnson has previously suggested.
Agrifood imports going into Northern Ireland from Great Britain will be subject to paperwork and checks in order to comply with single market rules, as well as trade tariffs if the goods are deemed to be “at risk” of further passage into the Republic of Ireland. A full list of goods thought to be “at risk” is yet to be agreed.
Goods subject to tariffs that only go as far as Northern Ireland are can have their tariffs reimbursement from the UK government, but the whole system for such procedure is also still to be determined.
Johnson has argued previously that only goods known to be heading onward into the Republic of Ireland should be subject to checks, but the industry says that verifying this properly would inevitably require some checks on trade exclusively within the UK, namely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The leaked document from the Department for Exiting the European Union also hints that implanting such changes within the December 2020 deadline will be challenging, acknowledging that work would have to commence before negotiations are concluded on a future trade deal.