Politics

EU fires back: Brussels snubs Boris Johnson’s ‘light touch’ Brexit border plans

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Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the European Commission who co-chairs a EU-UK committee implementing the Brexit withdrawal agreement said the EU would enforce full customs and regulatory checks immediately after Brexit. Mr Šefčovic said that while the UK border was a matter for the British government, the bloc would “robustly maintain” its equivalent after meeting Michael Gove yesterday.

Downing Street yesterday proposed a temporary light-touch border regime for goods flowing into the UK from the EU.

It comes as ministers seek to ease the financial impact on companies following the coronavirus crisis.

But Mr Šefčovič added: “I can assure everyone that the EU will continue to fully protect the integrity of the single market and customs union as well as its financial interest.”

Under the UK plan, business importing from the EU into the UK from January 1 will have up to six months to complete customs declarations.

Any duty payments which are owed will be deferred until the paperwork has been completed.

Meanwhile, businesses importing products from animals such as eggs will not need to provide the British government with advance notifications and relevant health documentation until April 1.

Traders will also have until July 1st before they need to make customs declarations and tariff payments at the time of entry into the UK.

Further compliance checks will also be conducted at inland border control posts.

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Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove backtracked on plans to introduce full border checks with the EU when the Brexit transition period ends.

He defied warnings that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” not to request an extension.

The Cabinet Office minister formally told the EU on Friday that the UK would not ask for a delay despite concerns the departure would compound the economic chaos inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, in scrapping plans to immediately introduce full import controls on EU goods in the new year, Mr Gove said Britain would now phase in changes over six months so businesses hampered by COVID-19 can have the “time to adjust”.

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He said that “the moment for extension has now passed” despite a stark warning from the first ministers of Scotland and Wales that the move would lead to “avoidable” business closures and redundancies.

The move comes as the UK economy contracted by more than a fifth in the first full month of lockdown, as shops and factories closed and workers were sent home to slow the virus’s spread.

The Office for National Statistics said that economic activity was down by 20.4 percent in April, the largest drop in a single month since records began in 1997.

After Mr Gove met with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, the Cabinet Office said a “flexible and pragmatic approach” would now see border checks between Britain and the EU introduced in three stages.

He added: “We have informed the EU today that we will not extend the transition period. The moment for extension has now passed.”

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