Brexit latest news – Expect MAJOR UK border 'disruption' with infrastructure unready for transition end, watchdog warns

THE UK border will see "significant disruption" after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, a watchdog has warned.

The National Audit Office said it was "very unlikely" traders would be ready for the checks the EUwill impose at its border, adding that a "limited" time remained for UK ports to test new IT systems.

It comes as Boris Johnson rejected claims from Brussels that Britain is stalling in Brexit trade talks to see if Donald Trump loses the U.S. Election.

Downing Street said it was “ simply untrue” that fears in London that a Joe Biden administration would take a tougher line on a US/UK trade deal could prompt greater concessions to Brussels by the UK side to get a deal with the EU instead.

One source branded the claim from EU officials “wishful thinking” and "desperate stuff".

Follow our Brexit live blog for all the latest news and updates…

  • Samantha Lock

    NORTHERN IRELAND NOT READY FOR BORDER CHECKS

    Northern Ireland will not be ready to conduct checks on certain goods moving between Britain and the province from January as required by the Brexit divorce deal and is exploring contingency plans, an official report warned on Friday.

    The National Audit Office (NAO), which reviews government spending, added that all UK borders would face widespread disruption when Britain finally leaves the European Union after COVID-19 hits its preparation, whether or not it strikes a free trade deal with the bloc.

    From Jan. 1, exporters will need to file customs and safety declarations, even if Britain does secure an agreement.

    However, the NAO said ports now have little time to integrate or test their systems with the government's new IT services, and there are still not enough customs sites or customs brokers to help industry adapt.

    “Disruption is likely and government will need to respond quickly to minimise the impact,” said NAO chief Gareth Davies.

    One of the most challenging areas will be Northern Ireland which will require some goods from the rest of the UK to be checked in order to protect trade with EU member the Republic of Ireland.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    '50/50 CHANCE DEAL'

    There is a “50/50” chance that Britain and the European Union will be able to reach a deal over the terms of Brexit, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Friday.

    “We are extremely clear on the conditions and the access to our European market,” he told France 2 television, who also said Britain had more to lose than the EU in the event that talks broke down and resulted in a “no-deal” Brexit.

    Earlier this week, both the EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost stated that there were still major “divergences” between the two sides regarding the state of the Brexit talks.

    Issues of contention between Britain and the EU have centred on fixing new fishing rights, guaranteeing fair-play rules for companies, and agreeing ways to solve any future trade disputes.

  • Alahna Kindred

    'SIGNIFICANT DISRUPTION'

    The Whitehall spending watchdog has warned UK trade with the EU will be disrupted after the transition period -regardless of a trade deal.

    The National Audit Office (NAO) said preparations for the new border controls – which had already been rated “high risk” – had been further hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.

    The controls are due to come into place on January 1, the day after the transition period ends.

    With less than two months to go, the NAO said key IT systems had yet to be tested and transit areas for lorries were not ready.

    It added that the Government had still not taken the steps required to ensure there were enough customs agents, seen as “vital” to the smooth working of the system.

  • Elizabeth Little

    BRUSSELS ACCUSES PM OF STALLING BREXIT FOR U.S. ELECTION

    Boris Johnson rejected Brussels taunts that Britain is stalling in Brexit trade talks to see if Donald Trump loses the White House.

    Downing Street said it was “ simply untrue” that fears in London that a Joe Biden administration would take a tougher line on a US/UK trade deal could prompt greater concessions to Brussels by the UK side to get a deal with the EU instead.

    One source branded the claim from EU officials “wishful thinking” and “desperate stuff”.

    The latest spat came as Michel Barnier has thrown out British pleas to elevate the Brexit talks to leaders' level warning they're now on a “trajectory” for No Deal.

  • Elizabeth Little

    BARNIER SNUBS BORIS PLAN FOR BREXIT SHOWDOWN

    Michel Barnier has snubbed a British plan to use political leaders to break the deadlock in the Brexit trade and security talks.

    According to The Express, the Brussels diplomat told a private meeting he refused an offer for Boris Johnson to begin political bargaining with his EU counterparts, in order to find agreements in the rows over future access to Britain’s fishing grounds and common standards.

    He claimed Downing Street wanted to trigger a “big tug of war” over as many as 30 unresolved issues in the hope of securing a number of concessions from the bloc, EU sources said.

    The Frenchman insisted the Prime Minister must not be allowed to hold a “mass bargaining session” with the likes of Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen until any future relationship agreement is virtually completed.

  • Elizabeth Little

    EU COMMISSION WARNS OF IMPACT FROM SECOND WAVE

    The European Commission said the second wave of coronavirus lockdowns would further dampen the bloc’s ability to bounce back from its worst economic crisis on record.

    In its Autumn Economic Forecast, the EU executive said next year’s recovery would be subdued as Britain is predicted to leave the single market and customs union on World Trade Organisation terms.

    The report said: “Given the uncertainty about the future trading relationship between the UK and EU, it is also assumed, without any prejudice to the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, that the EU and UK will trade on WTO Most Favoured Nation rules from January 1, 2021 onward.”

  • Elizabeth Little

    'WELSH FARMERS TOO RELIANT ON EXPORTING TO EU'

    The international trade secretary has suggested Welsh farmers are too reliant on exporting to the EU.

    With more than 90% of lamb exports destined for Europe, Liz Truss said “all the eggs are in one basket”.

    She said it showed the importance of opening up other markets around the world, something the UK government was “working hard” to achieve.

    Ms Truss went on to tell the NFU Cymru conference that the country would “thrive” with or without an EU trade deal.

  • Elizabeth Little

    'FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES' IN HUNT FOR BREXIT TRADE DEAL

    European diplomats have been told that there are still “fundamental differences” in the hunt for a Brexit trade deal and that the UK has “blocked” progress in key areas while trying to run down the clock.

    According to Sky News, the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, briefed representatives from all 27 member states on Wednesday afternoon.

    The meeting was highly confidential, but Sky accessed comprehensive minutes that lay out his negotiating position.

    Crucially, Mr Barnier told the meeting that the most important sticking point was the so-called level playing field – the mechanism that would ensure that, in future, the UK sticks to the same rules as the European Union in areas such as labour law and state aid.

  • Elizabeth Little

    WELSH SECRETARY SAYS UK CAN FLOURISH WITHOUT EU DEAL

    Welsh Secretary Simon Hart has told MPs talks on a post-Brexit trade deal between the EU and UK could end either way as what he called the “final, final deadline” is reached “in a few days time”.

    Hart said it would be possible to “flourish” without a deal and said Welsh businesses could see “quite positive opportunities” in not being tied to a trade agreement with the European Union.

    His remarks come as a poll for ITV Wales shows that most Welsh voters think a trade deal is either essential or desirable.

  • Elizabeth Little

    BREXIT LIKELY TO PUT STRAIN ON BIDEN PRESIDENCY

    Boris Johnson's “toxic” nature is likely to put a strain on a Joe Biden presidency, a prominent Democrat adviser has warned.

    Max Bergmann, a senior fellow with the Centre for American Progress, told the Times that the Prime Minister's credibility has fallen as a result of his Brexit support, and the administration could turn away from Brexit entirely.

    He said: “A Johnson government needs to rebuild its credibility with the US, which has been shaken by Brexit and the machinations over the past four years.”

    “If the UK is able to reach an agreement with the EU that would put them on the front foot of establishing a very good relationship with a Biden administration.”

    “The US will want the UK to be an important player in Europe. That means not having the UK and EU at each other’s throats.”

  • Elizabeth Little

    SUPERMARKET SUPPLY CHAINS HIT BY BREXIT

    Sainsbury’s has said the supply of some fish, dairy and meat products to its stores in Northern Ireland could be significantly reduced from January because of Brexit.

    The chief executive of the supermarket chain, Simon Roberts said: “If we don’t get greater clarity on the Northern Irish situation then we will see a restriction on the ranges of products we can sell.”

    “This is not one or two products in stores I am talking about, it is a substantial number of products and quite key, everyday products too.”

    Supermarket supply chains will be hit by Brexit whether there is a free trade deal or not between the EU and the UK because the Northern Ireland protocol kicks in at 11pm on 31 December.

  • Elizabeth Little

    NO-DEAL BREXT PLANS ‘BONKERS’

    A director of the Road Haulage Association has said plans for movement of HGVs across borders after a no-deal Brexit are “bonkers” and “a shambles.”

    Rod McKenzie said part of the issue is a lack of permits that may be needed to allow drivers to transport goods internationally.

    He also raised concerns about “unpleasant” conditions in proposed lorry parks, where hauliers would have to stay in the event of customs delays.

    Mr McKenzie, the RHA's policy director, told a Scottish Parliament committee on Thursday that the industry is not prepared for the disruption caused in the event of a no-deal Brexit on January 1.

  • Joseph Gamp

    BANK OF ENGLAND FORECASTS HIT TO ECONOMY IN EARLY 2021 AS BREXIT TRANSITION ENDS

    The Bank of England has forecast a 1% hit to the economy in early 2021 as a result of the end of the Brexit transition period – even if there is a deal with the European Union.

    With the clock running down before the UK leaves the single market and customs union at the end of the year, significant gaps remain between the two sides in post-Brexit trade negotiations.

    Downing Street was forced to deny that the extension to the coronavirus furlough scheme, which will now run until the end of March, was partly motivated by fears about the economic disruption that will occur on January 1.

    The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) based its assessment on the UK striking a Canada-style free trade deal, the Prime Minister's preferred outcome in the talks with the EU.

    The report raised concerns about smaller firms being ready for the increased bureaucracy that would be involved in exporting to the EU outside the single market and customs union.

  • Hana Carter

    BREXIT DEAL 'FAR FROM CERTAIN' SAYS IRISH MINISTER

    Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney responded to Michel Barnier's comments by tweeting: “A reminder that a brexit trade deal is far from certain.”

    He added: “We must continue to prepare as a country for all outcomes.

    “A deal remains doable but very difficult.

    “Time is short. Thank u @MichelBarnier for your calm and consistent approach.”

  • Hana Carter

    'LEVEL PLAYING FIELD IS MOST FUNDAMENTAL POINT'

    The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has briefed representatives from all 27 member states yesterday afternoon.

    According to Sky News, Mr Barnier told the meeting that the most important sticking point was the 'level playing field', which would ensure the UK sticks to the same rules as the EU when it comes to labour law and state aid.

    The level playing field (LPF) is highly important for the EU over fears the UK might undercut European laws.

    These may include reducing costs and attracting foreign investment.

    Mr Barnier told the meeting that LPF was “the most fundamental point where we still have major differences”.

  • Joseph Gamp

    NO-DEAL BREXIT PLANS BRANDED 'BONKERS' BY ROAD HAULAGE ASSOCIATION

    Plans for movement of HGVs across borders after a no-deal Brexit are “bonkers” and “a shambles”, according to a director of the Road Haulage Association (RHA).

    Rod McKenzie said part of the issue is a lack of permits that may be needed to allow drivers to transport goods internationally.

    He also raised concerns about “unpleasant” conditions in proposed lorry parks, where hauliers would have to stay in the event of customs delays.

    Mr McKenzie, the RHA's policy director, told a Scottish Parliament committee on Thursday that the industry is not prepared for the disruption caused in the event of a no-deal Brexit on January 1.

  • Joseph Gamp

    BARNIER SAYS EU PREPARED FOR 'ALL SCENARIOS'

    European Union negotiator Michel Barnier has said the bloc is ready for “all scenarios” in the trade talks with the UK.

    Despite the failure to achieve a breakthrough, it is expected that the two sides will remain in contact by videoconference calls, with further talks next week in London.

    The EU believes a deal needs to be done by the middle of November if it is to be ratified by the time the UK leaves the single market and customs union when the post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.

    He said: “Despite EU efforts to find solutions, very serious divergences remain in level playing field, governance and fisheries.

    “These are essential conditions for any economic partnership.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    CONCERNS RAISED OVER BORDER SECURITY CHECKS AFTER BREXIT

    A Home Office minister has come under fire over how security checks at the border will be carried out after freedom of movement ends.

    Kevin Foster, the minister for future borders and immigration, and department officials faced questions from the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday on how border checks and immigration rules will change at the end of the Brexit transition period.

    Concerns were reignited that the same level of checks for foreign criminals will no longer be carried out at the border if the UK loses access to the European security database known as SIS II (Schengen Information System).

    MPs heard around 140 million people come into the country in a normal year and the UK checks SIS II around 600 million times a year, with a “significant” proportion of those thought to be related to border checks.

    Mr Foster said Brexit negotiations were ongoing and UK databases could be used instead.

  • Joseph Gamp

    COVENEY RESPONDS TO BARNIER

    Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney responded to Mr Barnier's comments that there were “very serious gaps in negotiations.

    Me Coveney tweeted: “A reminder that a brexit trade deal is far from certain.”

    He added: “We must continue to prepare as a country for all outcomes. A deal remains doable but very difficult.

    “Time is short. Thank u @MichelBarnier for your calm and consistent approach.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    'VERY SERIOUS' GAPS REMAIN BETWEEN UK AND EU POSITIONS IN TRADE TALKS – BARNIER

    Michel Barnier has said “very serious divergences” remain between the European Union and UK as efforts continue to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.

    The EU's chief negotiator said the main stumbling blocks remained the “level playing field” aimed at preventing unfair competition on areas including state subsidies, fisheries policy and the governance of any deal.

    Mr Barnier updated MEPs and EU diplomats on the status of the negotiations with his UK counterpart Lord Frost, which have been taking place in Brussels.

    He said: “Despite EU efforts to find solutions, very serious divergences remain in level playing field, governance and fisheries. These are essential conditions for any economic partnership.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    WHAT IS A NO DEAL BREXIT?

    BRITAIN left the EU at the beginning of 2020 – more than three years after the nation narrowly voted to leave the union.

    Negotiations continue, but the EU and UK still disagree over future arrangements for areas such as fisheries, state aid and financial services.

    Read our explainer here

  • Joseph Gamp

    PM URGED TO GRANT SIX-MONTH GRACE PERIOD FOR FOOD SECTOR WHEN EU TRANSITION ENDS

    Scotland's food and drink industry has pleaded with the Prime Minister to grant a six-month “grace period” for new rules coming into effect when the UK's Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

    Business leaders said in a letter to Boris Johnson that after the damage done by coronavirus they are now facing a “perilous situation” at the end of the year.

    With no deal on future trading terms yet agreed between the UK and EU, the group warned Mr Johnson the “fallout from a no-deal would be catastrophic”.

    Scotland's food and drink industry is worth £15 billion a year, employing 120,000 people across the country.

    Industry leaders said the impact of Covid-19 has been “devastating”, with the sector fearing losses in revenue of £3 billion.

  • Ben Hill

    BANK STIMULUS

    The Bank of England is set Thursday to boost its cash stimulus to fight financial fallout from the coronavirus, as England enters a second lockdown.

    Concluding a regular meeting, the BoE is also likely to revise down central bank forecasts for UK economic growth amid deadlock over Britain's post-Brexit trade agreement with the European Union.

    The BoE is widely predicted to pump out an extra £100 billion under its long-running quantitative easing programme, bringing the total to £845 billion.

    Analysts expect its key interest rate to stay at a record low 0.1 percent as the bank refrains for now from taking borrowing costs into negative territory for the first time.

  • Jon Rogers

    PM URGED TO GRANT 6-MONTH GRACE PERIOD FOR FOOD SECTOR WHEN TRANSITION ENDS

    Scotland's food and drink industry has pleaded with the Prime Minister to grant a six-month “grace period” for new rules coming into effect when the UK's Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

    Business leaders said in a letter to Boris Johnson that after the damage done by coronavirus they are now facing a “perilous situation” at the end of the year.

    With no deal on future trading terms yet agreed between the UK and EU, the group warned Mr Johnson the “fallout from a no-deal would be catastrophic”.

    Scotland's food and drink industry is worth £15 billion a year, employing 120,000 people across the country.

    Industry leaders said the impact of Covid-19 has been “devastating”, with the sector fearing losses in revenue of £3 billion.

    Now with the end of the Brexit transition period looming in less than two months, the group said it wants a six-month relaxation of the rules that will require those selling products to Europe to produce export health certificates and other certificates.

  • Jon Rogers

    LORD ADONIS CLAIMS BREXIT WILL BE REVERSED

    Labour peer Lord Adonis has claimed that Joe Biden will win the US presidential election indicating the end of Republican Donald Trump and the demise of right-wing politics.

    He also indicated it was the end of Brexit which would eventually be reversed.

    In a number of Twitter messages he said Democrat Joe Biden would take the White House and later wrote: “This is the beginning of the end of Johnson too – and Brexit, though that will take longer to reverse.”

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