National Audit Office report says current EU-to-GB border measures cannot go on indefinitely

Fri 5 Nov 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

A report from the National Audit Office (NAO) says the government needs to do more to prepare for the imposition of controls at the EU-GB border from January 2022.

While businesses in Great Britain exporting to the EU have faced full border controls since 1 January this year, the UK government has delayed bringing in check for EU imports to GB three times to help businesses prepare.

ITV reports that the NAO praised the government’s handling of a new border with the EU as “largely successful” but said it relied on temporary measures that are “not sustainable”.

Lack of preparedness

The NAO praised the government’s actions as a “significant achievement”, noting that essential elements had been delivered and there had been no large queues at the border.

Though the decision to postpone EU-to-GB import controls has eased some of the pressure traders have faced amid the transition, there is a significant risk that firms will still be underprepared, reports City AM

The government’s revised border operating model (BOM) timetable, which a government official said would not be amended:

Measure for EU-to-GB imports

Original due date

New confirmed deadline

Pre-notification and documentary checks for agri-foods

1 October 2021

1 January 2022

Full customs declarations and checks

1 January 2022

No change: 1 January 2022

Export Health Certificates for agri-foods
1 October 2021
1 July 2022

SPS checks on animals and animal-based products, plants and plant products at Border Control Posts

1 January 2022

1 July 2022

ENS Safety and Security declarations


1 July 2022

For a free IOE&IT diagram charting these forthcoming Border Operating Model deadlines, click here.

Disadvantage Britain

Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, said the delayed rollout of full import controls meant UK businesses were at a disadvantage to their EU competitors.

“Leaving the EU has meant businesses have had to grapple with more paperwork and additional cost. Government must help businesses adapt to the new rules and put in place border controls that work for all,” she said.

According to the Independent, Brexit cost the UK £17bn in lost trade with the EU in just three months as businesses grappled with new costs and red tape. 

Duty free

The FT reports that delayed border checks could increase the risk of smuggling and trade disputes. 

It quotes pre-Brexit forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility that a porous border could cost Britain £600m in unpaid VAT, £100m in alcohol and tobacco duties, and £200m in customs duty.

Trader Support Service

The NAO’s report references the Trader Support Service, the HMRC-sponsored customs and safety and security declarations service for businesses moving goods from GB to Northern Ireland.

TSS, a consortium led by Fujitsu with the IOE&IT as partners to provide advice and education, went live to receive declarations from 21 December 2020. Between January and September 2021, the NAO reports, the TSS facilitated the movement of around 1.2 million consignments moving into Northern Ireland.

The IOE&IT has launched a special suite of courses to guide businesses as the 1 January 2022 deadline for the start of Border Operating Model controls and checks approaches. See herefor more information.