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NAO estimates post-Brexit border checks will cost UK $4.7 billion | Brexit

NAO estimates post-Brexit border checks will cost UK $4.7 billion |  Brexit


The government expects to spend at least $4.7 billion to introduce post-Brexit border controls, which have been plagued by repeated delays, the public spending watchdog has warned.

Plans to introduce border checks on goods coming from the EU faced serious problems, including a serious shortage of inspectors, before they were introduced last month, the National Audit Office said in a report.

Britain has said it hopes to have the world's most effective borders by 2025, but the watchdog said the strategy lacked a clear timeline and integrated delivery plan across government, leaving individual departments to implement different aspects.

The government estimates it will spend at least $4.7 billion over its lifetime on the 13 most important border-related programs, $2.6 billion of which was spent through March 2023.

The Cabinet Office's confidence level for physical checks on plant and animal imports, introduced in April, was rated amber at the start of the year, according to the report. The department, which monitors government and business readiness for change, said a yellow rating meant implementation was possible but there were significant issues requiring management attention.

This included difficulties recruiting and training Port Health Authority inspectors to carry out the inspections, with the government acknowledging the authority would not have 100% of the staff it needed from day one.

The Cabinet Office also raised concerns about whether the Government had put in place sufficient legislation to support the new checks.

The revelations about the government's lack of preparedness for the change come a week after an IT outage left trucks stuck at border posts for up to 20 hours, affecting many importing businesses bringing goods from the EU.

On April 30, the government introduced physical checks on trucks bringing animal and plant products from the continent, the same measures brought in by the EU for UK imports when the UK leaves the single market in 2021.

The report found that the Cabinet Office had raised staff shortages as a significant issue in January and that an approach to compliance and enforcement had not yet been agreed.

NAO chief executive Gareth Davies said: “The UK’s departure from the EU has brought about massive changes to the way goods move across borders. But more than three years after the end of the transition period, it is still unclear when full control will be achieved.

The border strategy has ambitious plans to use technology and data to facilitate trade while managing risk. To achieve its goals, the government will require strong delivery and accountability, including a more realistic approach to digital transformation, with effective monitoring to enable future improvements.

Significant legislation, including legislation allowing border posts to be formally designated for processing goods, was eventually passed by parliament in April, with the government publicly saying it would scale back some checks to avoid confusion just weeks before they were introduced. Yes.

This implementation follows five previous delays dating back to July 2021, including a complete overhaul of the approach in 2022, which significantly reduced the number of overhauls required.

The report said these repeated delays and changes in approach meant the government was spending taxpayer funds on infrastructure and staff that ultimately wasn't needed.

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This included spending $62 million to procure or build two unused sites near Dover that were originally used as border control stations, as well as $258 million for eight temporary border facilities that are now closed. .

The Port Health Authority employed 520 staff to carry out border checks in 2020-21, of which 370 were no longer needed after the government changed its approach in 2022. Only a few have had their roles reallocated within local authorities.

However, the NAO said the government had not yet set out a clear timeline for when the policy to deliver it would be implemented and there was no cross-government coordinated plan for the strategy.

Labor MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said: The core promise of Brexit was that we would take back control of our borders. However, more than three years after the end of the transition period, full import controls are not yet in place.

Delays and changes in direction have created unnecessary costs for governments and businesses. As PAC frequently observes across government, this could have been avoided with a clearer vision and better planning.

A government spokesperson said: Our border strategy introduces essential risk-based checks to protect the UK from potentially devastating pests and diseases. And we are making good progress, taking a pragmatic approach to minimize disruption, successfully rolling out new tests in January and April of this year.

To support traders, we will also be launching a single secure gateway, Single Trade Window. This makes it easier for traders to provide information to the government when importing goods.

The headline and first paragraph of this story were revised on May 20, 2024. A previous version cited post-Brexit border checks costing British businesses $470 million a year, but did not clarify that some of these costs existed before Brexit. That reference has been removed.




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