U.K. Races to Fix ‘Critical Gaps’ in Brexit Border Plan — Bloomberg

  • Boris Johnson’s officials are urgently working to avert a major border crisis when the U.K. leaves the European Union’s trade regime, amid warnings vital government IT systems may not be ready in time.
  • According to a leaked document, ministers are asking hauliers and other industry groups for help to avoid chaos at the border when the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year. The warnings are contained in a government official’s note of a meeting with representatives of the logistics industry, who set out their grave concerns over the dangers ahead.
  • The memo, circulated by the Cabinet Office’s Border and Protocol Delivery Group, lists 13 key risks to be flagged to ministers, including a lack of contingency planning in case things go wrong, and inadequate time to prepare. High on the list of concerns were the proliferation of new IT systems and the fact some of these are still being developed with just four months until they’re needed.
  • “There are up to 10 new systems that haulage firms and freight forwarders will have to navigate from Jan. 1, including at least three being designed now,” the memo said. “This is completely unnecessary and unmanageable with duplication and overlap.”
  • On Wednesday, the Road Haulage Association and other lobby groups wrote to Gove seeking an urgent round-table not just with him, but with Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to press their concerns.
  • A U.K official acknowledged there are problems raised by the industry that need to be solved. In a statement, the Cabinet Office said it has worked closely with the sector to develop its plans and will continue to do so. The government also said it is spending more on infrastructure and training intermediaries needed to handle the hundreds of millions of extra customs declarations that are expected to be required each year.
  • The possibility of border trade disruption threatens to become a winter crisis for the prime minister, as he tries to negotiate a new trade accord with the EU. Whether or not the U.K. manages to strike a free-trade agreement with the bloc, from Jan. 1 it will have to apply customs controls on goods moving to the EU, which accounts for about half of all Britain’s imports and exports. With the government ruling out any delay to the U.K.’s departure, the pressure to find a solution is building.

Industry warns of Brexit border chaos — Financial Times

  • The UK’s leading customs and logistics associations have demanded an “urgent” meeting with chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove after warning Brexit border preparations are inadequate and risk causing “severe” disruption to supply chains next year.
  • The group of 11 signatories, including trade lobby groups the Road Haulage Association and Logistics UK, as well as several leading freight companies, said they wanted the meeting because their concerns about the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 were now “so strong”.
  • The intervention comes as negotiations on a future EU-UK trade agreement appeared to have stalled, with both sides warning of the rising risk of a “no deal” exit.
  • In a letter to Mr Gove, the minister responsible for Brexit delivery, the groups said the current state of preparedness had “significant gaps” that risked leaving the supply chain “severely disrupted” if not addressed. “Our concern is so strong that we have collectively agreed to request an urgent roundtable meeting with yourself, the chancellor of the exchequer and secretary of state for transport [Grant Shapps],” they wrote.
  • “We are asking you to take seriously our concerns and listen to the detail during this roundtable so that we can collectively help government manage through this enormous challenge,” added the letter, seen by the Financial Times.
  • The letter was written after a series of increasingly heated meetings with the government’s Border Delivery Group, which was shifted to the Cabinet Office under Mr Gove last June in order to help expedite preparations.
  • Individuals familiar with the discussion told the FT that senior officials had revealed a basic lack of knowledge about the complex and time-consuming processes by which customs brokerages took on new clients. “The government just often fails to grasp the real-world complexities — for example, of preparing existing data sets to work with customs declarations,” said one logistics expert party to the talks. “This usually takes several months. We have 85 days and still lack basic information.”

UK companies fear food shortages as Boris Johnson’s government misses deadline for new Brexit labelling rules — Business Insider

  • Thousands of British food businesses could be left without the correct labelling required to continue selling to the European Union and Northern Ireland after the UK government missed an industry deadline to advise them on what new rules they will have to follow.
  • Britain will leave the EU’s trading rules at the end of this year, after which the labels that British food and drink businesses use will no longer be legally recognised on the continent.
  • UK trade associations repeatedly warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government that the end of August was the absolute deadline for issuing guidance that will allow them to produce new labels in time for January 1.
  • However, with just four months to go, they are still waiting for clarity from the UK government on the labelling rules they will have to follow in 2021.
  • There is particular concern about the trade of food between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Unlike the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU trading rules from next year to avoid a contentious hard border with the Republic of Ireland. In practice, this could force British exporters to Northern Ireland to use different labels from those used to package food sold elsewhere in the UK. This would seemingly contradict Johnson’s promise that trade across the Irish Sea would remain unfettered after Brexit.
  • Ministers have yet to clarify whether companies in Great Britain that export food to Northern Ireland, like major supermarkets, will be required to use different packaging from food sold elsewhere in the UK.
  • There are fears in Northern Ireland that there could be food shortages at the beginning of next year if British exporters do not have the correct labelling to sell food to the province. A senior business figure who spoke on condition of anonymity told Business Insider: “The government is sleepwalking into possible food shortages in Northern Ireland. If we don’t get some sort of derogation or agreement, this will be happening. There will be problems.”
  • The uncertainty is also fuelling concerns that the increased cost of trading with Northern Ireland will lead major retailers to pull out of the province.