UK unveils post-Brexit border plans and ad campaign

Almost half a century of frictionless travel is to be slowed by hurdles within a few months
Almost half a century of frictionless travel is to be slowed by hurdles within a few months

Britain on Monday launched another Brexit advertising blitz and unveiled its first detailed proposals for managing the country's borders after cutting ties with the European Union.

The campaign, aimed at future travellers to the bloc, businesses that with it, and EU citizens living in the UK, features adverts on television, radio and online.

The ad campaign—"The UK's new start: let's get going"—follows similar publicity efforts last year before Britain formally ended its EU membership on January 31.

The country is currently in a standstill transition period until the end of the year as it tries to negotiate a new trade deal with Brussels.

London has ruled out extending the transition beyond December 31 despite the tight timeframe, talks being gridlocked in key areas and disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The move has sparked alarm that almost half a century of economic integration with Europe and increasingly frictionless travel will end abruptly in a few months' time.

'Light touch'

But the government maintains planning is on track.

A raft of proposed border measures, set out in a 206-page document, covers every aspect of trade with Europe, from the import and export of rough diamonds to bottled drinking water.

Minister Michael Gove has pledged to create the most effective and secure border in the world by 2025
Minister Michael Gove has pledged to create the most effective and secure border in the world by 2025

The blueprint confirms the adoption of a staged approach to border enforcement over the first six months of 2021, with initial "light-touch" checks on goods from the bloc.

Senior minister Michael Gove, charged with delivering Brexit smoothly, hailed the plans as "an important step which gives businesses the certainty and direction they need to prepare.

"It is time for our new start, time for us to embrace a new global destiny," he told lawmakers while unveiling the government's plans.

But Labour's finance spokeswoman Rachel Reeves said a leaked letter from minister Liz Truss to Michael Gove "presents a picture of chaos".

"There have been alarm bells ringing within the Cabinet this last week expressed by the Trade Secretary in her extraordinary letter.

"The letter presents a picture of chaos, complacency and confusion right at the top of government."

'Check, change, go'

Adverts carrying a "check, change, go" strapline began appearing in newspapers on Monday, and updated advice was given on government websites.

The government recommends that travellers get comprehensive travel insurance and check their mobile phone roaming policy for inc
The government recommends that travellers get comprehensive travel insurance and check their mobile phone roaming policy for increased charges

Among the recommendations are for travellers to get comprehensive travel insurance and check their mobile phone roaming policy for increased charges.

People taking their pets abroad are advised to contact a vet at least four months before travelling.

The announcement follows a government pledge of £705 million ($890 million, 788 million euros) to prepare mainland borders with the EU post-Brexit.

Plans for the frontier between British-run Northern Ireland, which will have a special trade status after Brexit, and the Republic of Ireland, which remains an EU member, are due in the coming weeks.

There has been concern, even within the cabinet, that systems will not be ready, and businesses have repeatedly called for greater certainty about the new arrangements.

The EU warned earlier this month that Britain's decision not to extend the transition period meant "inevitable disruptions" would occur immediately.

Bureaucracy

UK businesses that trade with the bloc are urged to prepare for changes regardless of any deal being struck, as the country leaves the single market and customs union.

Key Brexit dates
Key events in the Brexit process.

They now face various new bureaucratic hurdles, including making customs and safety and security declarations, and paying customs duties and sales taxes.

That could see hundreds of millions of new customs declarations each year.

But the British government said a new "computerised transit system" will handle them electronically, backed by 500 new Border Force staff.

A "smart freight system" to help manage the flow of heavy lorries to Channel ports like Dover—which handles most of Britain's EU trade —is also under consideration.

The Department of Transport is reportedly purchasing a 27-acre site inland from the southern port of Dover to build a customs clearance centre.

Up to a dozen new border posts and inland facilities could be built, but no commercial transactions have been completed yet, according to officials.

Richard Burnett, head of the Road Haulage Association trade group said he was "completely at a loss to understand" how the plans could be achieved by January 1.


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© 2020 AFP

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