Johnson Defends Brexit Border Plan as Industry Sounds Alarm

Boris Johnson said Britain will be able to avoid border chaos when the U.K. completes its split from the European Union despite stark warnings from industry over its lack of readiness.

A government memo, first reported by Bloomberg News on Thursday, warned there are “critical gaps” in its Brexit plans, while logistics experts have highlighted the threat of chaos at ports and shortages of key products if a critical IT system isn’t finished in time.

“We’re ready for any eventuality of course,” Johnson said on Sky News on Friday. “We will get through this.”

Pressure is growing on the government as the end of the transition period draws closer. From Jan. 1, full customs controls will be imposed on goods traveling from the U.K. to the EU whether or not the two sides reach a trade deal this year.

With the key government app -- which trucks heading for the EU will have to use -- still under development, the logistics industry is seeking urgent talks with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove to press its concerns.

“We’ve kept the supply chains going, and I’m absolutely confident we will do that again in the future,” Shapps told BBC Radio 4. “There will always be concerns about what if this happens, what if that happens. Our job is to work with people like the hauliers to make sure that we’ve got the best systems in place.”

‘Incompetence’

The opposition Labour Party also criticized the government’s preparations, saying businesses still lack details about how to prepare for Brexit more than four years after the referendum.

“This is the latest example of Tory incompetence and raises real concerns about the risk of border chaos in four months’ time,” Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Rachel Reeves said in a statement. “The government should be working at maximum pace to deliver the oven-ready deal they said they had negotiated.”

The Conservatives have also drawn criticism over their handling of building Brexit lorry parks, facilities which will be used to hold trucks attempting to cross into the EU without the rights customs paperwork. This week, Johnson’s government gave itself sweeping powers to start construction in 29 different council areas across England without needing local approval.

“Worryingly, instead of addressing the concerns of businesses, the government is looking to build lorry parks across the country without consulting local communities,” Reeves said. “The government must urgently come forward with a plan to put workable solutions in place.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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