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The government has told businesses frictionless trade with the EU will end this year with the introduction of import checks at the UK border.
EU trade will not be waved through with zero checks which had been the plan under a no-deal Brexit.
Traders will not be able to use special arrangements to lodge new paperwork after a grace period at a later date.
Officials said firms will have enough notice to prepare for changes in time for 1 January.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove told attendees at a Border Delivery Group event: “The UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union, so we will have to be ready for the customs procedures and regulatory checks that will inevitably follow.”
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From next January, all traders will have to submit customs declarations and be liable to goods’ checks for customs, regulatory standards and food safety on cross channel ferries, for example.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Michael Gove said businesses must be ready for ‘customs procedures and regulatory checks’
These facilities, as well as the Channel Tunnel, have been designed for minimal border checks.
In order to function, new customs infrastructure, facilities and systems as well as staff, agents and vets will have to be in place by the end of this year.
It was quietly confirmed in a speech. Some might argue it has been inevitable since the election. But the change in the way the UK trade border functions with our biggest trade partner is one of the single biggest changes to the way the UK economy functions.
Put simply, many industries rely on the frictionless free flow of goods between the UK and the continent. The unequivocal message from Michael Gove is that businesses should prepare for the the end of that as 2020 draws to a close.
Whereas the impact of all this in the Irish Sea has garnered considerable attention, the new trading arrangements between Dover and Calais and along the Channel Tunnel, will have a bigger effect on the economy.
By getting businesses to take the prospect seriously, the government’s hope is that more will be prepared and so delays and disruption can be limited.
Businesses will not get the grace period for dealing with customs forms, offered as part of no deal planning. But we are dealing with parts of the border that are designed too run without checks.
The government’s seriousness of purpose here will also need to be demonstrated in the employment of customs officers,