Politics

Red tape fury lands paperwork at new Brexit minister Rees-Mogg’s door ‘We’re concerned’

Jacob Rees Mogg's new Brexit role pivotal to Boris Johnson

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Parliament’s public accounts committee (PAC) has said border checks are increasing business costs Suggestions are now being made London needs to work closer to Brussels in a bid to reduce bottle-necks at UK ports, an idea proposed by the spending watchdog.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who has now been tasked with opening up Britain’s full potential in a post-Brexit era, has already seen a report by the cross-party public accounts committee (PAC) saying border checks in place since the beginning of the year had increased business costs and “suppressed” trade with the EU, just hours after taking office.

Last year, Britain’s trade with the EU fell sharply in July, with Brexit and the global pandemic driving exports £1.7bn lower than in July 2018 and imports falling by £3bn, according to official data.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the fall was largely driven by declines in medicinal and pharmaceutical products, which have been particularly hit by the need for separate regulatory approval post Brexit.

The PAC has now said the situation will worsen in September when more stringent checks are implemented by the EU on British products crossing onto the continent.

The PAC committee chair, Meg Hillier, said the body had “repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of changes to trading arrangements on businesses of all sizes, and we remain concerned”.

Logistics companies are already complaining huge queues forming at ports are causing loss of income and time.

Additional checks are also on the increase this year.

Measures forcing lorries to stop on the A20 to prevent Dover from becoming clogged have been implemented 20 times already this year, compared with 69 times in the whole of 2021.

Rod McKenzie, executive director for policy and public affairs for the Road Haulage Association, said post-Brexit border checks “mean friction where none existed” and hauliers were becoming familiar with long delays at peak times.

The UK has yet to impose similar protocols onto incoming EU freight, with the Government delaying the action three times over the last year.

Logistics between Britain and Northern Ireland are also being affected as the Northern Ireland Protocol requires goods to be checked under the Withdrawal Agreement.

As part of the upgrade, the UK must adapt port equipment and border checks by September to avoid huge disruption to holidaymakers and haulage firms when the EU switches to biometric identity checks that would force travellers to exit their vehicles.

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The Home Office is currently in talks with French officials on how to work more efficiently and avoid queues.

Forecasts of the costs to businesses are expected to be lowered, though it is not clear by how much, a report has suggested.

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In 2019, HMRC estimated complying with new customs rules could cost UK and EU businesses £15bn a year.

“HMRC told us in November that it had not updated its 2019 estimate, but that there are indications that the costs to businesses will be less than that estimate,” the PAC report said.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Traders have adapted well to the introduction of full customs controls on 1 January, with minimal disruption at the border and inbound freight flowing effectively through ports. 

“We are continuing to ensure that businesses get the support they need to trade effectively with Europe and seize new opportunities as we strike trade deals with the world’s fastest-growing markets, including one-to-one advice through the free-to-use Export Support Service.

“As an independent trading nation, the UK has secured over £760 billion worth of trade deals with more than 70 countries plus the EU, including landmark deals with Australia and New Zealand.”

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