By Lilia Dergacheva /Sputnik News/ – The UK government has approved a new funding package of around £705 million meant for border infrastructure, security, and jobs to facilitate the country’s border systems and make sure that they are “fully operational” from 1 January 2021, after the UK has fully exited the EU and the bloc’s customs union.
Under the plans, new border posts will be set up inland where existing ports have no room to expand to cope with the extra checks that will be made obligatory at the existing entry points.
The package, which Michael Gove said would help the UK “seize opportunities” post-Brexit, will include up to £470 million to build port and inland infrastructure, while £235 million will be allocated for IT systems and staffing, as 500 new border control officers are expected to be hired to ensure compliance with customs procedures.
“We are taking back control of our borders, and leaving the single market and the customs union at the end of this year bringing both changes and significant opportunities for which we all need to prepare. That is why we are announcing this major package of investment today”, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove pointed out.
As part of the new infrastructure, the government has purchased land a short drive from the port of Dover in Ashford for a new border control centre and lorry park, with work due to start on Monday.
In a letter to residents, which has since been published on Facebook, junior Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said the plans are still in the making but they are “anticipated to form part of the department’s strategy to minimise potential disruption at Kent ports”.
The border control package, which Gove said would help “seize the opportunities as we lay the foundations for the world’s most effective and secure border”, pertains to only those of England, Scotland, and Wales. The government is expected to publish individual guidelines and draw up measures for Northern Ireland in the next few weeks. Gove specified that the government will lay out more on the Northern Ireland-Ireland border regulations later this month.
The announcement follows a leaked letter by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, who raised concerns about the readiness of Britain’s ports post-Brexit.
The letter first reported by Business Insider suggested Ms Truss had drawn Whitehall officials’ attention to the government’s plans to phase in checks on EU goods arriving in the UK after the Brexit transition period expires. She reportedly warned fellow ministers that failing to set up full border controls until July could propel smuggling from the EU, cause legal challenges at the World Trade Organisation, and even weaken the union with Northern Ireland.
The way the UK’s relationship with the EU will transform when the 11-month transition period ends on 31 December 2020 depends on whether a trade deal is struck in the coming months. Transition period extensions to reach a deal whatever it takes have been outright ruled out by the UK government.
In early June, the UK reportedly indicated a readiness to reach a compromise with the EU on trade regulations and fisheries if Brussels scraps its “maximalist” demands, and the EU’s Barnier is now said to be “preparing the ground” to soften his hitherto hardline stance.
The speculation came days after Barnier’s confirmation that “significant divergences remain between the EU and UK”, but promised the sides “will continue working with patience, respect, and determination”.