The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has described plans to delay border checks on goods imported from the European Union for a fourth time as a ‘global disgrace’ saying that the move will extend concessions for foreign businesses that ‘may as well be deliberately aimed at undermining UK farmers and producers’.
Checks on imports from the EU should originally have been introduced in January 2021 when the Brexit transition period came to an end, but the failure of UK governments to prepare border inspection posts meant they were not implemented at that time and have been delayed three times in the subsequent 28 months.
Speaking in response to the news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was considering a fourth delay, FUW President Glyn Roberts said:
“EU countries got their act together and started implementing full checks on our exports from the UK on 1 January 2021.
Yet despite it being more than five years since Theresa May announced that the UK Government intended to pursue a hard Brexit policy, and that such border checks would be needed, the UK is still not ready.
It’s a global disgrace, as it means we are failing to implement checks on international trade that should be standard practice in order to protect our own industries and population.”
Mr Roberts said that the Government’s failure meant Welsh and UK exporters face significant and costly checks on goods moving to the EU, but that EU products had been waived through our ports and into the UK market without checks for more than a year.
“In other words, our exports, such as Welsh lamb, face extremely costly border bureaucracy while food producers importing from the EU to the UK face nothing of the sort – the Government’s failure to prepare for their own Brexit plan may as well be deliberately aimed at undermining UK farmers and producers,” said Mr Roberts.
UK food and drink exports in 2021 were 12% below 2020 levels and 16% below 2019 levels – with falls for certain food products such as lamb far greater – mainly as a result of the checks imposed on UK exports entering the EU and associated costs.
In its June 2021 response to a Government consultation on further delaying checks at UK borders, the FUW stated:
“Border checks are inherent to the UK Government’s decision to leave the Single Market and Customs Union announced by Theresa May in January 2017, and concerns regarding Governments’ failures to prepare for these over the subsequent three years have been highlighted repeatedly by the FUW and in four reports by the National Audit Office.
By contrast, neighbouring EU countries have instigated far more thorough preparations, allowing them to implement full border checks when the transition period ended on 31st December 2020…
The failure to implement border checks is not only a source of great national embarrassment, but also one which increasingly breaches WTO rules, by favouring imports from EU countries over those from non-EU countries…we recognise the reality of the impacts caused by Governments’ failures to prepare for the end of the transition period, and would therefore urge all relevant Governments and authorities to step up efforts to ensure all infrastructures are in place, such that checks that should already be taking place can be introduced before the end of the proposed new extension deadlines.
Failure to do this will not only extend the period over which many Welsh and UK businesses are disadvantaged, but also further undermine the UK’s negotiating power over the EU”
Mr Roberts said that during the period of almost a year since that consultation was launched, the failures had simply continued to the extent that a fourth delay was being mooted by the Prime Minister.
“It is highly embarrassing and a disgrace that while other countries were able to prepare for and implement plans for a Brexit they didn’t want over just a couple of years, those who instigated Brexit have failed over a period of more than five years to implement an essential feature of what they wanted,” said Mr Roberts.