Cabinet Brexit report warns UK will not be ready for customs changes by 2021

Posted On: 
18th March 2018

The UK will not be ready for changes to the customs system in time for the end of the Brexit transition period, a report presented to Cabinet ministers has warned. 

A Border Agency officer checks a vehicle at the ferry port in Calais
Credit: 
PA

The Government has accepted there will be a 21-month transition period lasting from March 29, 2019 until December 2020.

Brexit Secretary David Davis travels to Brussels today for another round of talks on the transition period with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier.

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But the Sunday Times reports that ministers were briefed on Tuesday that there would not be time for the UK to implement new systems at the border.

A Cabinet source told the paper there were issues with "borders and databases, which won't be ready in time". 

Another source confirmed: “The paper was on the end date for the implementation period. It was only circulated to ministers at the meeting with 15 minutes’ reading time. It was the EU that has offered December 31, 2020. Nothing else is negotiable. But we won’t be ready on everything by then, notably customs.”

MPs on the Brexit select committee have called for the implementation period to be extended to give the Government more negotiating room - although Brexiteer MPs wrote a separate conclusion dissenting from their colleagues.

Earlier this week Transport Secretary Chris Grayling suggested the UK would avoid backlogs of lorries coming into the country by simply not checking incoming traffic from the EU.

"We will maintain a free-flowing border at Dover, we will not introduce checks at the port, it was utterly unrealistic to do so," he told the BBC's Question Time. 

"We don't check lorries now, we're not going to be checking lorries at Dover in the future."