Brexit Customs Checks Make a Quiet Debut at U.Ok. Ports
LONDON – A new era began without a fuss on Friday morning at the ports and terminals on Britain’s south east coast. Ferries and trains transporting goods from Dover and Folkestone to France ran on time, and the drivers snaked their trucks unloaded into the port.
Apparently, little has changed on January 1st, the first day of the country outside the internal market and customs union of the European Union. It was a public holiday, after all, and there wasn’t much to do.
For the first time in over 25 years, goods moving between the UK and the European Union are no longer able to move freely and goods entering the block will be subject to customs controls.
A trade agreement signed in the UK in the early hours of December 31st, less than 24 hours before it went into effect, means that the country and the European Union will trade goods without tariffs. However, businesses will continue to face significant changes that they had to prepare for even during the lockdowns, closings, and other social restrictions the government put in place to contain a growing pandemic.
The changes will certainly bring “bumpy moments,” a senior cabinet minister predicted this week. The government estimates that new customs papers alone will cost British companies £ 7 billion (about $ 9.6 billion) a year.
Britain has at least 150,000 exporters who, according to the country’s tax authority, have never shipped their goods beyond the block and are therefore required to file customs declarations for the first time. Border controls within the European Union were abolished in 1993.
This is a change that will be felt immediately in the UK ports, particularly the port of Dover and the Eurotunnel endpoint in Folkestone, which connect the country to France. But on Friday, New Year’s Day, the trains and ferries are said to have run smoothly. Eurotunnel reported that 200 trucks had already used their shuttle train by 8 a.m.
“It seems pretty quiet,” Elizabeth De Jong, the political director of Logistics UK, a trade group, told Sky News on Friday morning.
However, she added that companies are now facing “a new, different language of customs regulations” that need to be understood. She described the next few weeks as a live test, as companies need to ensure that they have the correct documentation for themselves and the goods on board and that traffic into the region needs to be controlled.
In the most extreme circumstances, or according to the government, in the worst case, between 40 and 70 percent of trucks traveling into the European Union may not be ready for the new border controls. This would slow the flow of goods and could result in lines of up to 7,000 trucks driving to the border and delays of up to two days, according to a government report.
Britain has only recently removed a huge backlog of trucks from the border. On late December 20, the French government suddenly closed its border for 48 hours to stop the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus from England. Thousands of trucks and their drivers were stranded for days. Once the border reopened, they had to show a negative coronavirus test before they could enter France.
The delays in the normally fast-paced port have also raised concerns about the UK’s supply of fresh food, much of which is imported from Europe in winter. A fruit supplier urgently arranged for goods to be flown into the country. British fish and shellfish exporters had to mingle to ship their goods to France unaccompanied by drivers before spoiling them.
The spectacle heightened concerns about trade after December 31, the end of the Brexit transition period. Although goods are already moving more slowly because every driver must first get a negative coronavirus test, which can take around 40 minutes to produce results, trucks are unlikely to see thousands of trucks entering France due to the quieter holiday season Wait friday.
“We would expect the ongoing disruption to worsen in the first two weeks as freight demand increases,” the government report said. This could take about three months.
Goods entering the European Union from England, Scotland or Wales now require customs controls, including security clearance, and truck drivers need entry permits for Kent, the county including Dover and Folkestone to confirm they have the necessary documents .
Truck drivers driving in the other direction initially have to make fewer demands. The UK government has relaxed the rules for goods coming into the country from the European Union for six months.