Gove changes tack on EU import checks

London, UK: Cabinet minister Michael Gove has warned the UK logistics industry to prepare for strict border controls between Britain and the EU after Brexit, sparking concerns about the food supply chain.

Gove, who spoke to representatives from trade associations on Monday, warned that UK-EU trade won’t get preferential treatment after the 11-month post-Brexit transition period expires on Dec. 31.

This stance is different from the government’s previous position when it promised that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, traders would have been granted a grace period that would have allowed EU imports to continue as usual.

“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,” Gove said.

“I don’t underestimate the fact that this is a significant change, but we have time now to make that change.”

“It is now becoming clear that the very real threat of disruption to food trade is present,” said Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation. “A dawning realisation has to spread quickly through industry and government agencies about how much has to be done to be ready.”

Michael Gove, cabinet minister

The Road Haulage Association moved quickly to demand clarity from the government over Brexit border checks. The RHA is urging the government to provide vital information to UK businesses after revealing that EU imports will be subject to checks after 2020. Rod McKenzie, RHA managing director, said: “We have really big concerns about this: there’s a complete lack of detail from the Government.

“Business needs certainty about new customs procedures and clarity about what steps need to be taken – and when. We are calling on ministers to give business that clarity urgently and invest accordingly to avoid border delays and confusion next year,” he said.

Elizabeth de Jong, UK policy director at the Freight Transport Association, said: “As representatives of the logistics industry, we are naturally disappointed that the promise of frictionless trade has been replaced with a promise that trade will be as seamless as possible but not until 2025, with a more realistic but costly “make do and mend” approach to be employed until then.  Industry will need the support of government during this period to Keep Britain Trading effectively.”

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