The government must avoid a “last minute” provision of important information needed by hauliers to prepare for new border control regulations, due to be introduced in July this year, Logistics UK warned this week.
The warning comes just days after MPs and port authorities raised concerns that major delays could occur at the Channel Ports this summer, when the new border regulations kick in.
Sarah Laouadi, Logistics UK’s head of international policy, said: "While the government seems to be confident that all planned Border Control Posts (BCPs) will be built and staffed in time for July - albeit with interim arrangements and temporary facilities in certain cases - our main concern is the lack of details about the type of commodities that will be accepted at each location, which is crucial for businesses to rearrange their routes and operations if necessary.
"This information should be available by now. The operational changes we are talking about cannot be delivered at the last minute."
The UK Major Ports Group, which represents 40 ports around the UK, also expressed concern at the lack of information on the new border regulations.
It said there was still no clear plan or estimate of charges for customs and food safety checks at new government-funded border posts and warned that this could lead to yet more disruption to supply chains already under severe strain.
Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, said: “We need to know what the government is going to charge because it may be less than port operators are currently charging which could then disrupt trade flows.”
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“The industry still doesn't know what percentage of goods are going to be checked. It’s a concern for everywhere that handles EU trade. These are very price-sensitive routes.”
He also expressed concern that checking lorries at the new inland facilities could allow shipments to evade customs.
“The checks being introduced in July are much more intrusive and more time consuming than customs checks, which are mostly about documentation,” he said.
“There are 25 miles between Dover and Sevington. If there’s any indication that a blind eye might be turned when lorries are pinged for customs checks but don’t show up that is a concern. That is clearly an issue for Portsmouth, Hull and others.”
Mark Simmonds, director of policy and external affairs at the British Ports Association, also reported difficulty in getting information on the costs of new checks and warned that the worst disruption would come in July when physical checks will begin on food and plants.
MPs have also predicted delays at the Channel ports this summer. Last week the cross-party Public Accounts Committee said: "With closer to normal passenger volumes and the EU’s planned introduction of its new Entry and Exit System to enter the EU expected in 2022, there is a risk that it will take longer to process passengers travelling from the UK to the EU.
“This is a particular risk at the juxtaposed controls, such as Dover, where EU officials carry out border checks on the UK side of the border and where queues might build up in the UK."