Michael Gove vows £705m border spending as government readies ‘bright future’ campaign to get UK ready for Brexit
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove pledged a new ‘bright future’ campaign would help businesses prepare. (PA)
Michael Gove has pledged to spend £705m on the UK’s borders and launch a new public information campaign to get the country ready for Brexit.
An extra 500 Border Force staff will be hired and new control posts will be created under plans unveiled by the Cabinet Office minister for Britain’s post-EU set-up.
The extra funding comes after a leaked letter from trade secretary Liz Truss to Mr Gove and Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed a string of concerns over Britain’s preparations for the phased-in changes at the border.
Labour said the Government’s plans were hit by “a growing sense of chaos and confusion”.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Gove vowed that the £705m would “make sure our borders are ready for full independence”.
“We’re investing in new infrastructure, more jobs and better technology to help goods move smoothly, make our country more secure and our citizens safer,” he said.
“The money will ensure that Great Britain’s new borders will be ready when the UK takes back control on January 1 2021, and will also lay the foundations for us to build the world’s most effective border by 2025.”
The new funding package will include up to £470m for new port and inland infrastructure, with posts needed to carry out customs checks created away from ports themselves where room is limited.
A further £235m will be used to boost IT systems and staffing.
Mr Gove also revealed that the Government is preparing to launch a major new public information campaign aimed at getting businesses ready for the end of the current Brexit transition period, which keeps the UK broadly aligned with EU rules until December 31 this year.
Dubbed ‘The UK’s new start: let’s get going‘, Mr Gove said the campaign would “give everyone the facts we need to be ready for January 1 2021”.
The Cabinet Office minister added: “Whether you’re the managing director of a multinational conglomerate or a family business; a UK citizen resident in the EU or planning to work abroad, the new campaign will clearly set out the steps that will help this big change go as smoothly as possible.”
The Sunday Times reports that the new campaign will be launched as early as Monday.
But the latest pledges come amid Cabinet tensions over the proposals to phase in customs checks at the UK border.
The post-Brexit checks regime for goods coming into the UK from the EU will now be brought in in three stages up until July 1 next year, after ministers dropped their original plan to have the bloc’s goods face the same customs checks as those from other countries from January 1.
But a letter from Ms Truss, originally obtained by Business Insider and shared in full by Labour on Sunday, warns that the UK could be left open to a legal challenge from the World Trade Organisation by the proposals.
It also says there is an increased risk of smuggling from the European Union if not all UK ports are prepared, and says Northern Irish unionists could be angered by a “high risk” plan to apply EU tariffs by “default to all imports in NI on 1 January 2021”.
The Northern Ireland proposals could, Ms Truss warned, “call into question NI's place in the UK customs territory”.
Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves — who has called on the Government to address the letter’s contents in a Commons statement — said: “This leaked letter lifts the lid on a growing sense of chaos and confusion between Cabinet Ministers at the Government’s complacent approach to vital preparations ahead of 31 December."
And she added: “There is growing alarm from the business communities in Northern Ireland and increasingly in Britain that Ministers aren’t being entirely open about the state of preparations.
“These issues will affect countless businesses and jobs and are simply far too important to be left to written correspondence like this.
"This extraordinary letter deserves answers, not just given to the House of Commons, but to the industries and people who stand to be affected if the Government gets this badly wrong.”