LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom’s border risks being snarled up in a no-deal Brexit because as few as 30 percent of traders are prepared, the European Union would introduce controls and organised crime groups would exploit weaknesses, the National Audit Office said.
FILE PHOTO: View of the border crossing between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland outside Newry, Northern Ireland, Britain, October 1, 2019. REUTERS/Lorraine O’Sullivan
The United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31 and while Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to strike a last-minute deal, he has said that if the EU refuses then he will lead the world’s fifth-largest economy out without an agreement.
A no-deal exit, the nightmare for many businesses, would be abrupt with trade reverting to basic World Trade Organization rules: new customs controls, tariffs and non-tariff barriers would be applied to 438 billion pounds ($554 billion) of trade.
The most significant risks remain the low proportion of traders ready for the new checks, the likelihood of EU controls and the unsustainable nature of any compromise on the Northern Irish border, the National Audit Office said in a report.
“Although the government has actions under way to influence these, mitigating these risks is now, to some extent, out of its control,” the government’s spending watchdog said.
“It is impossible to know exactly what would happen at the border in the event of no-deal on 31 October 2019.”
Over 228 million tonnes of freight – equivalent to 760,000 jumbo jets – crossed between the United Kingdom and the rest of the EU in 2018, so any disruption could swiftly turn southern England and northern France into sprawling lorry parks as ports came to a standstill.