- The EU has set out all the rights to trade freely with Europe that Britain will lose after Brexit.
- A report from the EU Commission warns that there will be “inevitable disruptions” and “thorough checks” on the border once the Brexit transition period ends in January 2021.
- Free movement rights will also be curtailed, with the pet passport scheme no longer applying in the UK.
- The report comes after Business Insider revealed a leaked letter from UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss warning that the UK risks not being ready in time to carry out the new checks.
The European Union has warned British people that they will be subject to “thorough checks” and “inevitable disruptions” at EU borders from next year while losing many of the rights they currently hold to trade freely with the EU.
The UK is due to leave the Brexit transition period at the end of 2020 and is currently seeking a new free trade deal with the EU.
However, in a report setting out how new border arrangements will work after Brexit, the EU Commission state that “UK nationals travelling to the European Union and the Schengen area will be treated as third-country nationals, and therefore subject to thorough checks at the Schengen area border.
The report added: “This will happen even if an ambitious free trade area is established with the United Kingdom, providing for zero tariffs and zero quotas on goods, with customs and regulatory cooperation.”
The European Commission warns that unlike the UK government, which is phasing in checks over six months, the EU will not show any leniency and plans to carry out all checks as of January 1.
“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,” the report warns
“It is essential that all stakeholders be made aware of this, and that they ensure their readiness for these broad and far-reaching changes, which will arise under any scenario, regardless of the outcome of negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“There is no room for complacency or postponing readiness and adaptation measures in anticipation that an agreement would ensure continuity because a large number of changes will be inevitable”
The advice means that as of next year, lorries carrying goods into the EU — the UK’s largest trading partner — via Dover and other ports face several new checks, including those for customs and SPS checks for animal-based goods.
Free movement rights will also be curtailed.
“As of 1 January 2021, an EU pet passport issued to a pet owner resident in the United Kingdom will no longer be a valid document for travelling with pets from the United Kingdom to any of the EU Member States,” the report states.
“The requirements for pets accompanying those travelling from the United Kingdom in the future will be set by the Union.”
The advice comes less than six months before new border checks between the UK and EU come into place and with negotiators struggling to make progress on a free trade deal that could potentially negate some of that friction.
The EU’s chief negotiator has held informal talks with his UK counterpart David Frost in London this week, including during dinner at Downing Street. However, “significant divergences remain” between the two sides, Barnier said.
Leaked Liz Truss letter raised by Tory MPs with Boris Johnson
The EU’s warning comes after Business Insider obtained a letter sent by UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss on Wednesday expressing her concern that the UK’s own post-Brexit border processes will not be ready in time for next year.
The letter to Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, and Michael Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, set out “four key areas of concern” about how UK borders will operate as of next year.
Truss raised fears that UK ports will not be ready to carry out full import checks when they come into effect in July, raising the prospect of chaos at the border next summer, and warns that some ports could be vulnerable to smuggling as of January. She also reveals that the UK government’s planned system for applying UK and EU tariffs in Northern Ireland is not set to be ready for when it is needed in January.
Truss also warned that the government’s plans could be subject to legal challenge at the World Trade Organisation.
The letter caused deep consternation among Conservative members of Parliament, the Times reported on Thursday and led to questions being directed to prime minister Boris Johnson at a private meeting with backbenchers this week.
Asked by reporters about the letter on Thursday, a spokesman for Johnson insisted that “Our approach is WTO compliant.”
He added: “I can’t comment on leaked correspondence, things which I haven’t seen, but I’ve set out the border regime that we are putting in place.”
Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and shadow Cabinet Office minister, said Johnson’s government needed to provide a “clear strategy and support” for British businesses exporting to the EU.
“The Conservative government has had four years to develop its border plans yet there is still uncertainty and unanswered questions for many UK businesses,” she told Business Insider.
“While the government has recognised some of its own lack of preparedness by trying to temporarily backtrack on their requirements for EU imports, we now have confirmation that many of our country’s exporters will face a series of new hurdles.
“It is vital that Ministers have a clear strategy and support for all our businesses exporting to the EU so that the consequence of the government’s approach and complacency is not harm to UK industries and jobs.”