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Government offers £200m to ports to prepare for Brexit

[ October 2, 2020   //   ]

The government has launched a £200 million fund for ports to build new facilities as part of its preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period.

The fund is targeted at those ports that have the space to build new border infrastructure on their current sites so that they are ready to handle new customs requirements under the new Border Operating Model. The funding can be used for a range of vital port infrastructure such as warehouses, control posts or traffic management systems.

Where infrastructure is not best situated at ports, the government has allocated an additional £270 million to build inland customs facilities.

The deadline for applications is midday on 30 October, and successful bids will be announced shortly after.

The government says the new border controls will be introduced in three stages up to 1 July 2021. From January 2021, traders importing standard goods, covering everything from clothes to electronics, will need to prepare for basic customs requirements, such as keeping sufficient records of imported goods, and will have up to six months to complete customs declarations. Tariffs will need to be paid on all imports, but payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made.

There will be checks on controlled goods like alcohol and tobacco. Businesses will also need to consider how they account for VAT on imported goods. There will also be physical checks at the point of destination or other approved premises on all high risk live animals and plants.

From April 2021, all products of animal origin (POAO) – for example meat, pet food, honey, milk or egg products – and all regulated plants and plant products will also require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation.

Then, from July 2021, traders moving all goods will have to make declarations at the point of import and pay relevant tariffs. Full Safety and Security declarations will also be required, while for SPS commodities there will be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples. Checks for animals, plants and their products will now take place at GB Border Control Posts.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, said: “With just three months to go until the end of the UK transition period, businesses need to prepare now for the new procedures that will come into place whether or not we reach a trade agreement with the EU, so that we can seize the significant opportunities that lie ahead. We have listened to businesses and the border industry and will continue to work with them to deliver not just a fully operational border at the end of the transition period, but also the world’s most effective and secure border within the next five years. The launch of this £200 million fund will help us do just that.”

Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, added: “Our ports are a point of pride for the UK, contributing to our success as a global trading nation and helping bring vital goods into the country each and every day. This investment will not only ensure our borders are fully operational at the end of the transition period, but will also support the UK’s fantastic businesses as they trade across Europe.

Tim Morris of the UK Major Ports Group, the trade association for the UK’s largest port operators, said that the announcement was “a welcome step in ensuring that this capacity can be maximised and UK supply chains can be more resilient.

However, he added: “Time is short and it is vital that UK businesses prepare for new border arrangements. We will work urgently with the Government on the all-important detail and related regulations.”

Chief executive of the British Ports Association, Richard Ballantyne also welcomed the fund and the focus on preparing port infrastructure for “a significant change in our trading relationship with the EU. It’s clear that without support there would not be the capacity to deal the new customs and borders requirements. We therefore welcome this scheme which importantly will be open to all port operators across Great Britain.”

But he added: “The clock is definitely ticking and a lot of work still needs to be done but this will help overcome a significant hurdle. We will continue to work with government to help shape a border strategy that works for the UK’s freight sector.”

BPA says that although open to all types of ports, it is expected that ro-ro operators will have the tmost interest in applying to use the scheme and it is also the sector that has the most to do to adapt to new requirements. The way in which new controls are placed on the 10,000 lorry movements a day between the UK and Europe was critical to avoid traffic disruption, it said.

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