EU and UK prepare for paperwork and delays on new Brexit border

By on 13/07/2020 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Delays in processing the paperwork needed after the transition period ends could cause lengthy traffic jams at ports, severely impacting supply chains. (Photo courtesy Oast House Archive via

The EU has published sector by sector guidance for businesses in both the UK and on the European mainland, detailing the changes that will be necessary when the Brexit ‘transition period’ comes to an end at the end of 2020. The document, which was published last week, came as the latest round of talks on a future trade agreement closed with “significant divergences” still to resolve, according to a tweet from EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier. 

In robust language, the document lays the blame for the lack of progress and the new burdens on business squarely at the feet of the UK government. “The choices made by the United Kingdom’s government on the future relationship and on not extending the transition period mean that these inevitable disruptions will occur as of 1 January 2021 and risk compounding the pressure that businesses are already under due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” it reads. 

For instance, even if a free trade area is agreed without tariffs or quotas, all goods crossing the EU-UK border will be subject to all regulatory non-tariff barriers, involving additional paperwork and delays, the document says. 

A new red tape challenge

The changes will be particularly painful for certain sectors, it makes clear. For instance, air carriers that have operating licences granted by the UK licencing authority for the transportation of people or cargo – which are currently recognised by EU nations – will no longer be able to operate within the EU unless they secure equivalent approvals from the EU’s own regulator. 

Private citizens will also be adversely impacted. Any UK nationals travelling to the EU will be subjected to thorough checks at the border and will not be able to stay longer than 90 days in any 180-day period, according to the document. Nor will UK citizens be able to make use of the ‘fast lanes’ established at borders for EU citizens. 

Separately, Barnier also wrote to arch-Brexiteer Tory MP Mark Francois last week, addressing the MP’s claims that he must drop his “unreasonable demands” on adherence to EU rules and the role of the European Court of Justice. Barnier pointed out that the requirements were included in the Brexit deal agreed between the UK and EU by Boris Johnson last year, and subsequently approved by a majority of MPs – including Francois – in the House of Commons. “All we are asking of the UK is to honour its commitments in the political declaration,” Barnier wrote. 

A fright for freight

Separately, it emerged last week that the UK government is stepping its Brexit planning. On Friday, it was reported in The Guardian that the government had bought 11 hectares of land near Dover, Kent, with the intention of developing a new customs clearance centre to handle the 10,000 lorries that arrive in Dover from Calais every day. The paper said that work would begin on fencing off the site early this week.

Kent County Council was only informed of the government’s intentions on Friday, the report added, when the council had to deliver letters from Rachel Maclean, parliamentary undersecretary of state for transport, to residents warning them of potential disruption arising from the development. 

“Plans have not yet been finalised for the use of this site, but it is anticipated to form part of the department’s strategy to minimise potential disruption at Kent ports for the end of the transition period,” the letter read. “This is likely to involve temporary capacity for the holding of delayed HGVs and facilities for border-related controls to be carried out by government agencies. More detailed information will be provided in due course.”

Meanwhile, it was reported over the weekend that the UK has rejected an offer from Brussels to join an EU scheme aimed at procuring a vaccine for COVID-19. The Independent reported that the UK government ministers were concerned that participation would mean they’d be unable to secure sufficient doses of a vaccine for UK citizens. This was disputed by opposition MPs, who claimed it was a nakedly political decision. 

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