Brexit: Food shortage fears, border delays and UK-EU row
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said post-Brexit “teething problems” can be fixed with “goodwill”
- EU threatening to launch legal action against the UK after Boris Johnson dismantles Brexit red tape
- UK could ease customs checks on EU imports to reduce border delays
- Farming and fishing businesses concerned about food standards being downgraded amid food shortage fears
Even though the UK and the EU secured a Brexit trade deal on December 24th, tensions between London and Brussels continue to escalate, with logistics and handling said to be the primary source of conflict.
On Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated that post-Brexit border problems are “temporary teething issues” and that the UK and the EU will be able to resolve international trade difficulties with “goodwill” and “imagination.”
Speaking at a No 10 press conference, Mr Johnson commented on the ongoing row over Northern Ireland’s border. He insisted that Britain was fixing port issues with “some temporary technical things” to ensure trade flows seamlessly.
Lord David Frost has also been urged to scrap his abrasive approach and cool tensions between Brussels and London over trade disruption so that the two can move towards securing a mutually beneficial relationship.
It comes after the UK said it would extend the Irish Sea border grace period until October 2021 without consulting the EU. The move sparked outrage in Brussels, and EU authorities threatened to launch legal action against the UK for breaching the Brexit agreement for a second time.
London has been attempting to secure an extension of the grace period on goods between Britain and Northern Ireland for weeks to avoid cliff-edge trade disruption.
While London and Brussels have engaged in a series of talks, the two sides are yet to reach a formal agreement.
Despite coming under fire for his actions against Northern Ireland protocol, the Prime Minister defended the government’s decision to extend the grace period. Mr Johnson went onto say that critics will be “pleasantly surprised” when they discover the outcome of the latest row with the bloc.
When asked about breaching the Brexit agreement, the Prime Minister responded: “It was a sensible thing to do. I’m sure that it can all be ironed out, sorted out, insofar as the EU objects to that, with goodwill and with imagination, and that’s what we intend to bring to it, and I’m sure that our friends will as well.”
However, many businesses feel let down by the Prime Minister, who claimed that there would be no non-tariff barriers to trade when the UK stops operating under EU rules.
Although Mr Johnson has brushed the latest issues off as “teething issues”, the question remains as to whether these problems are temporary or more enduring?
Lord David Frost comes under fire as UK-EU row continues
Former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union, Philip Rycroft, has accused David Frost of refusing responsibility for Brexit issues.
Mr Ryfront called out David Frost for burning trust with the EU following the UK government’s decision to extend the grace period unilaterally. He urged him to stop playing games with Brussels and resolve trade issues concerning trade in Northern Ireland.
Some politicians are concerned that the UK and the EU could descend into a tit-for-tat retaliation, which would have wider repercussions for businesses and the economy on both sides of the Channel.
Brussels is also refusing to grant the UK regulatory equivalence, which Bank of England (BoE) Governor Andrew Bailey said is the EU’s plot at a power grab to prevent the UK from increasing its competitive position.
However, reports understand that the UK is pursuing a World Trade Organisation (WTO) deal amid fears that Brussels will thwart talks as the rivalry between the two sides intensifies.
That said, a government official said that London has the potential to become the “biggest financial capitals of the world” with any deal.
Conservative MP John Redwood has also insisted that post-Brexit Britain is brimming with opportunity for the fishing and farming industries.
The Tory MP said that the fishing and farming industries can expand significantly now that the UK isn’t tied down to EU rules.
However, Brexit poses a threat to UK fishing and farming businesses at every stage of the logistics process, as new trade rules have resulted in higher fees, border delays and supply chain disruption.
Post-Brexit trade disruption and border checks trigger food shortage fears
Border checks and new customs rules that have been introduced as a result of Brexit has created more paperwork for UK businesses, which now have to meet stricter product standards when trading goods and livestock with the EU.
However, post-Brexit border disruption has resulted in delays to customs checks on EU imports at ports and triggered a backlog in demand. The border delays are causing goods and livestock to go to waste, raising concerns over food shortages.
Currently, all food exports from animal origin, including milk, meat, fish and gelatine, require extensive documentation.
While supply-chain disruption is expected to ease after the adjustment period, some farming leaders and politicians fear the UK government could cave in to pressure and downgrade standards to overcome border issues with the EU and support the UK economy.
It comes after the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said that post-Brexit trade barriers will reduce UK gross domestic product (GDP) by approximately 4% in the long-term.
Last week, the Food and Drink Federation’s research revealed that EU exports from its members have slumped by 45% since the UK became a sovereign state.
Boris Johnson has insisted that the UK “won’t compromise” on safeguarding food and animal welfare standards. However, Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), expressed his concerns to MPs on the International Trade Select over uncertainty among officials overseeing new trade checks.
Mr Wright also noted that the UK could be “50,000 customs agents short of ideal levels when import regulations come into effect from April.”
There have been concerns raised over the availability of migrant workers due to new Brexit trade rules, especially following the recent departure of foreign-born residents from the UK.
According to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), approximately 1 million non-British born residents left Britain by 2020-end.
The coronavirus pandemic has been cited as the prime reason for migration, with furlough, increased redundancies and the UK’s high infection rate believed to have discouraged immigrants from staying in the UK.
However, the post-Brexit trade system could make it more difficult for EU migrants to obtain visas and gain residency in the UK.
The UK Home Office has also been very ambiguous on the rights of non-UK-born residents following Britain’s departure from the EU, which could persuade people not to return or acquire settlement status – worrying news for sectors dependent on workers from abroad.