Setting up borders: the government's infrastructure plans (so far) for the UK post-transition

Wed 15 Jul 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

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The government is setting up new border operations for the UK as it prepares for checks and controls on goods moving between the UK and EU when the transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

A £705m funding package was announced at the weekend, which will go towards getting the UK ready for life outside of the EU customs union.

It includes new control sites, customs centres, investment in staff and software, and possibly new freeports.

Here is a summary of what we know so far.

1. New customs centres

The Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, announced a £470m programme to get facilities set up to process freight going to and from the EU.

The Guardian reports there will be 10 to 12 new border customs and controls sites across the country which will handle up to 400m customs declarations a year.

Though the government is still in “commercial negotiations” for the sites for the facilities, the Guardian also reported last week that a 27-acresite on the outskirts of Ashford had already been purchased.

Five of the sites are likely to be in Kent, with Ebbsfleet International and the disused Manston airport near Ramsgate under consideration. They are expected to be operational by 1 January.

2. Border control posts in NI

The government’s Border Operational Model, published on Monday, will account for trade coming into England, Scotland and Wales.

Goods moving between GB and Northern Ireland and then on into EU member the Republic of Ireland will be governed by the Northern Ireland Protocol. These goods are not subject to the same processes as GB-EU trade, as Northern Ireland will remain in the EU Customs Union.

The government recently submitted applications to the EU to create Border Control Posts at Northern Ireland to facilitate the checks on animal and plant products entering NI from Great Britain.

However, the government also said there be “no new customs infrastructure” for NI.

3. Investment in staff and software

Some £235m will be allocated for IT systems and staffing to ensure additional goods checks will not disrupt businesses.

According to the BBC, this includes:

  • £100m to develop HMRC systems
  • £20m on new equipment
  • £15m towards building new data infrastructure to improve border flow and management
  • £10m to recruit around 500 more Border Force staff

The government is currently developing the Goods Vehicle Movement Service – initially for goods coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain from 1 January, and then for goods coming into GB from the EU from July.

A new ‘Smart Freight Service’ is also being developed to ensure critical ‘Roll-on, Roll-off’ exports are not interrupted by traffic.

The Border Operating Model, published on Monday 13 July, suggests that hauliers taking goods through Kent could be fined if they do not use the new SFS or travel through Kent in contravention of advice from the service.

4. Freeports

The government is also considering introducing up to 10 new freeports in the UK to reduce taxes and tape for UK traders.

Freeports are zones which are considered outside a country for customs purposes, allowing goods and components to be imported and exported from the zone tariff-free.

Several seaports and airports are already considering applying to gain freeport status, including Liverpool, Teesside, Edinburgh and Cardiff.