CBI welcomes prospect of relaxed border controls for EU imports from 2021

UK business trade organisation CBI has welcomed a UK border planning decision to apply less stringent controls from the EU to Britain, than had originally been expected, as the Brexit transition period ends this December. Neill Barston reports.

The move is significant for all segments of the food and drink sector, including confectionery, snacks and bakery markets, which have enjoyed a strong ‘just-in-time’ logistics network with the continent.

However, present arrangements – which include sourcing key ingredients for a number of major confectionery brands from Europe, had potentially been under threat, should additional paperwork requirements have been enforced by border control points within the UK. But the latest move from the British government has said that such checks will only now be introduced in stages, to allow companies time to adapt, given the coronavirus pandemic.

The subject has been repeatedly raised by the Food and Drink Federation, with concerns that logistics for the entire sector could be severely affected unless a ‘no deal’ scenario is avoided. After several rounds of trade talks between the EU and the UK, there has so far been little progress made on key aspects of forming a new trade agreement.

Speaking on the decision, the CBI, which represents a total of 190,000 businesses within the UK, Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director general, said: “Introducing unilateral easements at the border for a short period of time in the event of no deal is sensible and pragmatic. It will be welcomed by Britain’s manufacturing and food businesses, which simply aren’t ready for chaotic changes with our biggest trading partner at the end of the year.

“Both sides know that post-Covid recovery will be hugely damaged without an ambitious deal. So news of greater political engagement between negotiators starting next week will also raise hopes that the deadlock can be broken.

“A deal is possible and must be achieved. Failure will worsen inequalities and damage regional and national growth. And while this move will help businesses trading goods, businesses trading services must not be forgotten. So leaders on both sides must steel themselves to find a route through that helps economies, people’s jobs and living standards across Europe for the long-term.”

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