Customs controls at the border between the UK and the EU will be introduced in a phased way from 1 January 2021 in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The UK government said the measures, which will allow firms to import most goods for six months without a customs declaration at the point of entry, would “give businesses affected by coronavirus more time to prepare”.
The move was announced when the last opportunity to request an extension of the transition period passed.
Michael Gove, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “We have informed the EU that we will not extend the transition period. The moment for extension has now passed. At the end of this year we will control our own laws and borders which is why we are able to take the sovereign decision to introduce arrangements in a way that gives businesses impacted by coronavirus time to adjust.”
Talks between the UK and EU on a trade deal following Brexit are not reported to be going well, but the Confederation of British Industry said a “deal is possible and must be achieved”.
Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said: “Introducing unilateral easements at the border for a short period in the event of no deal is sensible and pragmatic. It will be welcomed by Britain’s manufacturing and food businesses, which simply aren’t ready for chaotic changes with our biggest trading partner at the end of the year.
“A deal is possible and must be achieved. Failure will worsen inequalities and damage regional and national growth.”
The Cabinet Office (CO) said it recognised the impact of coronavirus on firms’ ability to prepare for Brexit and despite an announcement in February that the UK would “implement full border controls on imports coming into GB from the EU”, this will now take place in three stages up to 1 July 2021.
From 1 January standard goods from clothes to electronics will need “basic customs requirements”, such as keeping sufficient records, and there will be a six-month window to complete customs declarations. Tariff payments can be deferred until the declaration has been made. “Businesses will also need to consider how they account for VAT on imported goods,” said the CO.
Checks will remain in place for alcohol, tobacco and high-risk live animals and plants.
From April 2021 all products of animal origin and regulated plants and plant products will also require pre-notification and relevant health documentation.
From July 2021 all goods will have to make declarations at the point of entry and pay relevant tariffs. Full safety and security declarations will be required.
Alex Veitch, head of international policy at the Freight Transport Association, said: “The proposal is measured and balanced, so that logistics businesses will not feel the full shock of a sudden cut-off at the end of 2020.”
In May the government said it was removing tariffs on imports worth £30bn to support UK supply chains.
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