Ian Wright from the Food and Drink Federation told MPs his members were suffering from delays when importing and exporting to the EU. He said those dealing with the paperwork at ports were unsure what was in the trade deal struck between the UK and EU.
He told the Future Relationship with the European Union select committee: “It’s important to understand the enforcers are as clueless about the provisions of some of the deal as those who are operating under it.
“Our biggest single problem is nobody has absolutely had the chance to work with this deal, to practice the checks.”
The trade pact between London and Brussels was not finalised until Christmas Eve, two months after the original deadline for an agreement.
It meant there was just one week between the trade deal being struck and its implementation on January 1.
Giving one example of issues encountered by those trading across the border, Mr Wright said one of his trade association members, an “international global company which is very very well known”, found they were met with delays which lasted for days.
He said: “A job which usually took them three hours before the deal was done has taken them five days so far, so is the nature of the impenetrability of the paper work.”
With customs officials unsure of the exact regulations themselves, Mr Wright said grace periods were being operated by both sides to help ease trade.
The industry leader said: “There are numerous grace periods, formal and informal, being operated by all sides in this quadrangle of regulation and enforcement.”
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However, despite port officials being confused by the rules and an informal grace period being put in operation, last week Emmanuel Macron “read the riot act” to port and ferry operations.
According to the Financial Times, the French President demanded port officials crack down on hauliers not following the new trading rules.
Mr Macron’s effective ending of the informal grace period risks sparking huge tailbacks at ports as confused French officials try to wrangle with the terms of the Brexit trade deal.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove warned last week disruption at the border was likely to increase in the weeks to come.
He thanked hauliers, traders and industry partners for preparing for the new relationship with the EU.
The MP said their work had “paid dividends” with “minimal” disruption so far.
However, with the number of lorries crossing the border due to increase over the coming days as trade ramps up beyond Christmas, queues are likely to grow.
He added: “We have always been clear there would be changes now that we are out of the customs union and single market, so full compliance with the new rules is vital to avoid disruption, and the best way to ensure readiness is to follow the guidance on gov.uk and use the ‘Check an HGV’ service.
“We stand ready to help keep goods flowing smoothly as we adjust to our new relationship with the EU and ensure we take advantage of the opportunities it brings.”