Assurances have been given over a 200 job customs post after “utter nonsense” claims it would be axed. But Welsh Government has hit out over another delay on full post-Brexit checks after spending £6m on the project.
UK Government last week delayed introducing more checks on EU goods entering the UK for the fourth time over fears it will impact supply chains and add to rising inflation. This is despite the EU implementing equivalent checks on UK goods back in January 2021.
The controls due in July would have included prohibitions and restrictions on the import of chilled meats from the EU, safety and security declarations, and changes to sanitary and phytosanitary checks on plant and animal products. These have been put back to the end of 2023 and UK Government is reviewing how they will implement them to “harness the power of data and technology”.
This does potentially impact a 100 job Border Control Post set to be built by Welsh Government for these checks – close to the site of the separate HMRC run Inland Border Facility.
Vaughan Gething, Minister for Economy, said Welsh Government had so far committed £6m of public money on “UK Government’s policy commitment” to develop inland Border Control Posts. He said UK Government’s engagement with the Devolved Governments in terms of decision making has been completely “unacceptable”.
He added: “Moving forward I want to work collaboratively with the UK Government to ensure we have the right system in place for importing goods which is safe, secure and efficient. That requires a genuine change in attitude and engagement. If a safe, secure and efficient import system can be achieved through harnessing innovative new technologies to streamline processes and reduce frictions, then this is something the Welsh Government can support. But equally we will want to be assured that our long term strategic responsibilities to protect the health of people, animals and plants in this country are given sufficient weight.”
Labour MS for North Wales Carolyn Thomas said the decision to delay had cost implications for Welsh Government and Anglesey council. She added: “Jacob Rees Mogg has made the decision to keep frictionless imports, helping foreign businesses, while Welsh and British farmers and businesses that need to export are now faced with the continued bureaucracy of paperwork and costs.”
Brexit Opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg explained why the decision had been made to delay checks for the fourth time.
He said: “British businesses and people going about their daily lives are being hit by rising costs caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine and in energy prices. It would therefore be wrong to impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports and to supply chains at this point. The remaining import controls on EU goods will no longer be introduced this year – saving British businesses up to £1 billion in annual costs.
“Instead the Government is accelerating our transformative programme to digitise Britain’s borders, harnessing new technologies and data to reduce friction and costs for businesses and consumers. This is a new approach for a new era, as Britain maximises the benefits of leaving the EU and puts in place the right policies for our trade with the whole world.”
However the separate £45m HMRC Inland Border Facility(IBF) for customs checks at the former Roadking lorry park is not affected according to the HMRC and Ynys Mon MP Virginia Crosbie. More than 100 staff are already in place and further recruitment is underway. The MP attacked “untrue” and “irresponsible” claims that the 200 job IBF was to be scrapped.
Ynys Mon Labour had posted on Twitter that the jobs were being “cancelled”. They said: “This is sad for Holyhead where people have been promised over 200 new good quality jobs working for HMRC. And embarrassing for those who have been doing the promising so confidently.”
Ms Crosbie said: “The suspension of post-Brexit checks at UK ports does not affect the IBF. All the 200 plus jobs there are perfectly safe. It is as embarrassing as it is desperate to make these untrue claims. Even a cursory glance at the UK Government’s announcement would show HMRC is not affected.”
In response Ynys Mon Labour said: “Following the Government’s announcement last week, we have posted our concern on social media that the jobs promised for Holyhead may be at risk, we have not stated that the ‘facility is to be axed’, we have however asked for clarification and questioned her claim that hundreds of jobs have been ‘delivered’.
“Given that one role of the Inland Border Facility is identified on the Inland Boarder Facility website as being “to inspect goods such as animals plants and products of animal origin” and that the announcement suggests that these checks will be delayed for a further year whilst a new plan is developed, these seem like reasonable concerns. Virginia Crosbie MP seems to have difficulties with opposition parties holding her to account for her Government’s decisions and their impact on local people.”
Ms Crosbie also criticised Plaid Cymru – tagging the party into her comments after Plaid MS Rhun ap Iorwerth called the situation a “shambles”. But in his post on social media the Ynys Mon MS is referring to the Welsh Government’s Border Control Post, which could be impacted by the further delay and potential changes in the border checks.