Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Post-Brexit border arrangements expected to cost UK taxpayers $6 billion

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The post-Brexit border checks are expected to cost taxpayers in the United Kingdom at least $6 billion after repeated delays in setting new rules, according to a report released by the parliament’s spending watchdog, on Monday (May 20). 

‘Significant issues’

The UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) report noted that the plans to bring in border checks on goods entering the country from the European Union faced “significant issues” including critical shortages of inspectors before their introduction last month. 

Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016, but it was not until this year that the country set up the new rules given to untangle supply chains and erect customs borders. 

The second phase of the UK’s new post-Brexit border controls for food imports began on April 30, when the government introduced physical checks for so-called “medium risk” animal products, plants and plant products.

The move in April followed the first phase of the UK’s so-called new Border Target Operating Model which required additional certification and came into force on January 31. 

The third phase would require safety and security declarations and is slated for the end of October. 

The government report estimates that it will spend at least $6 billion on the 13 most significant border-related programmes over their lifetimes out of which $3.3 billion had been spent by March last year. 

The report found that the Cabinet Office’s confidence in the second phase had been rated as “amber” at the start of the year, which means that while the implementation was “feasible”, there were “significant issues that required management attention”.

In this case, it is the difficulty to recruit and train port health authority inspectors who would be responsible for conducting the checks. 

Repeated delays

The British government has delayed the implementation of full control of the passage of goods across the border post-Brexit five times since the end of the EU exit transition period on December 31, 2020. 

The delay in implementation, according to the report, has not only caused uncertainty for businesses and led to extra costs for government and ports, but also increased the biosecurity risk to the UK. 

“The repeated delays in introducing import controls, and difficulties forecasting requirements, have resulted in government expenditure on infrastructure and staff that were ultimately not needed,” the NAO stated in its report. 

It added, “Late announcements about policy and uncertainty about the implementation of controls have also reduced the ability of businesses and ports to prepare for changes.” 

NAO also noted that while border processes, post-EU exit, have operated “relatively smoothly,” the businesses trading goods between the UK and the EU have faced additional costs and administrative burdens. 

The watchdog also slammed the UK’s hopes to have the “world’s most effective border” by 2025 saying that the plan lacked “a clear timetable and an integrated cross-government delivery plan, with individual departments leading different aspects of implementation.”

The NAO also asked the government to take “a more realistic approach” to digital transformation. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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