Labour says Boris Johnson's government must answer 'urgent' questions about its Brexit border plans, saying time is running out for businesses to prepare

Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
  • Exclusive: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government is coming under more pressure to reveal details of its Brexit plan.
  • The Labour Party has written to Michael Gove urging him to answer several questions about how Britain's borders will work when the UK leaves EU trading rules at the end of the year.
  • Business Insider has obtained a copy of the letter, which you can read below.
  • Work is underway to build a new customs clearance site in Kent, England, that will process new checks as of 2021.
  • Labour's Rachel Reeves told Gove that businesses are concerned about costly new red tape, while people living in Kent are worried about pollution and traffic.

The Labour Party has written to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government demanding clarity over the work it is doing to prepare Britain's borders for leaving the European Union's trading rules at the end of the year.

Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has urged Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to provide businesses and communities with details of how Brexit will impact them as soon as possible.

Reeves wrote to Gove after visiting Ashford, Kent, on Thursday, where work is underway to build one of the many new customs clearance sites that will process new checks on goods being transported to and from the EU as of 2021.Advertisement

UK government officials currently expect to build between 10 and 12 new sites in total across the country, in anticipation of significant new bureaucracy.

The government estimates that there will be over 400 million additional customs checks a year on goods going to and from the EU as of 2021.

Writing to Gove on Friday after her visit to Kent, Reeves raised several questions about the infrastructure being developed on the 27-acre stretch of land, as well as sites being built elsewhere in preparation for Brexit.
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"As you will surely be aware, there is a great deal of concern among residents and businesses in Kent about the implications of our new customs arrangements after 31st December," Reeves said.

"I have heard from businesses that are hugely worried about the extra costs and red tape that will be introduced, and residents concerned about the noise, air pollution, and general disruption to their local area." "With just five months until the end of the transition period, businesses across the country urgently need clarity," she said.Advertisement

"But just as importantly, there are communities up and down the UK that will want reassurance that they will not face a great deal of disruption as a result of these arrangements, without prior warning."

In her letter, Reeve urged Gove to provide details of what the new customs clearance centre will mean for Ashford and the surrounding area, like how many lorries are expected to drive through the site and the hours it will be open.

She asked what work the government has done to assess the effects the new site could have in regards to noise and air pollution, and whether ministers are considering compensating residents for a rise in pollution and traffic in their area.Advertisement

Reeves also asked Gove to provide details of several new customs clearence centres being built elsewhere in Kent and across the country in preparation for leaving the EU's single market and customs union at the end of the year.

Business Insider has asked the UK government for comment.

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British businesses are bracing themselves for an array of new checks and processes on goods going to and from the EU, the UK's biggest trading partner, from January 2021.

Johnson's government and the EU hope to mitigate at least some of the impact by negotiating a free trade agreement by the end of the year. However, the two sides are yet to make a breakthrough after months of negotiations.

Business Insider earlier this month obtained a copy of a letter sent by Trade Secretary Liz Truss to Gove and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, expressing "four key areas of concern" about the government's efforts to make sure British borders are ready for January 2021.Advertisement

In the leaked letter, Truss raised fears that new border arrangements with the EU would not be ready in time.

She set out her concern that UK ports will not be ready to carry out full import checks when they come into effect in July next year and warned that some ports could be vulnerable to smuggling as of January. Truss also suggested that the UK government's planned system for applying UK and EU tariffs in Northern Ireland was not set to be ready for when it is needed in January.Advertisement

There was concern among business groups in Northern Ireland this week that firms in the region will not have enough time to prepare for changes in how they trade both with the EU and the rest of the UK.

The UK government has promised to publish a full border operating model to give Northern Irish businesses the information they need to prepare. However, this is not set to be published until the autumn — potentially just weeks before the UK leaves the Brexit transition period at the end of December.

Here's Labour's letter to the government:

Dear Michael,Advertisement

Today I visited the site of the government's planned lorry park/customs centre in Ashford.

As you will surely be aware, there is a great deal of concern among residents and businesses in Kent about the implications of our new customs arrangements after 31st December. I have heard from businesses that are hugely worried about the extra costs and red tape that will be introduced, and residents concerned about the noise, air pollution, and general disruption to their local area.

With just five months until the end of the transition period, businesses across the country urgently need clarity. But just as importantly, there are communities up and down the UK that will want reassurance that they will not face a great deal of disruption as a result of these arrangements, without prior warning.Advertisement

I would appreciate if you could offer an answer at the soonest possible convenience to some of these questions, which would provide much needed clarity for communities and businesses across Kent and beyond:

· What assessment has been made by the government of potential implications in terms of noise and air quality in the local area, of both this site and any other potential sites?

· Has a Special Development Order been obtained in relation to this site, and will it be?Advertisement

· Has an environmental impact assessment been completed for the government's plans for the Ashford site?

· What provision has been made for local area funding to offset any potential costs associated with the Ashford site and any others? · Has any consideration been given to compensation to residents affected by air quality, noise and/or traffic?Advertisement

· What are the anticipated hours of operation for the Ashford site after 31st December?

· Should this site or any other be used as a lorry park for vehicles awaiting customs checks, how many lorries should be expected to go in and out of that site in the course of a day?

· Is this site intended for lorries going from the UK into the EU, for those going from the EU into the UK, or both?Advertisement

· What other sites are under consideration to house customs and border infrastructure after 31stDecember?

· Will the government take feedback from local people on this site, and engage with local people in Kent and elsewhere in advance of announcing any further sites?

· Can the government confirm what plans it has for any infrastructure to be constructed across the rest of Kent?Advertisement

· What plans are in place to deal with potential disruption to residents and businesses in Kent and the south-east of England associated with delays and queues at the border?

· Will there be similar sites located in other parts of the country too? Will similar facilities be needed near other ports – and if so, which ports? Have sites been chosen or assessed for that purpose in these locations?

I will look forward to your response on these important issues.Advertisement

Best wishes,

Rachel
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