Don’t count on Brexit being fully implemented before the next election

New import and export rules and delays are hitting smaller firms especially hard, says Sean O’Grady

Thursday 28 April 2022 18:35
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<p>New obstacles to trade hit smaller companies disproportionately hard, and have contributed to a generally disappointing UK trade performance with Europe</p>

New obstacles to trade hit smaller companies disproportionately hard, and have contributed to a generally disappointing UK trade performance with Europe

How’s Brexit going? In certain respects it either hasn’t quite happened yet, or it has and the British government doesn’t like the consequences, foreseen or not. Endless and futile attempts to reopen the Northern Ireland protocol or activate partial unilateral withdrawal (Article 16) fall firmly into the first category. So does the Channel refugee crisis. The endless delays to imposing Britain’s new sovereign import regulations on goods from the EU is the most egregious example of the latter.

Far from new opportunities and cheaper food for the British people, Jacob Rees-Mogg – the high priest of Brexit – has announced a fourth delay to physical checks on fresh produce imported from the European Union. To no one’s great surprise, after almost six years since the referendum, the technology and the infrastructure isn’t ready for the UK fully to “take back control” over its borders. Non-Brexit factors such as the operational collapse of P&O Ferries, the Ukraine war and Covid-related shortages haven’t helped smooth supply lines.

In an audacious claim, Rees-Mogg has declared the long-term failure to get Brexit done as a fine example of Britain exercising its freedom of manoeuvre, by managing the status quo. In theory, and within the terms of the EU-UK Trade and Partnership Agreement, the British could throw up all manner of bureaucratic obstacles to the import of prosciutto di San Daniele or artisanal French mountain cave cheese, for example, but has graciously declined.

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