Ports all over the UK are asking the government to extend a grace period on incoming Brexit customs checks as there is the risk of food shortages and further damage to businesses. Everywhere, docks are working hard to build new infrastructure to conduct goods inspections. Unfortunately, it looks like many projects will not be finished before July, when the new import processes are due to come into force.
Port managers have been truly struggling with red tape and funding issues, with some projects prevented from starting due to wrangling over specifications and planning permission.
The government agreed to phase in import checks on EU goods to ease the burden on businesses, which have already been coping with export checks since the Brexit transition period ended. It postponed customs declarations, safety declarations and physical checks on imports, including inspections of animal and plant products, to the start of July 2021. Some extra documents will be needed from April.
Ministers also launched a £200-million port infrastructure fund to support ports in building control posts to carry out checks, as well as warehouses and traffic control systems. But the awards were only granted in December 2020, giving ports just over six months to build the infrastructure.
Meanwhile, ports have been wrangling with government agencies about the building specifications needed to conduct checks, further setting projects back.