The Home Affairs Committee has raised concerns that the UK could face ‘chaos’ at its borders if the government fails to come up with contingency plans.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said in September that it would need an additional 5,000 staff to deal with new customs checks that could come into effect when the UK leaves the EU in March 2019. Its concerns were mostly focused on the Dover-Calais route and other ports of entry.
A report by the Home Affairs Committee shows the proposed increase in staff isn’t enough and the country faces traffic jams at its borders – similar to those seen in June 2015 when French ferry operators went on strike and Operation Stack was put in place – if the government fails to plan for rapid changes. It raised concerns that Border Force employees might be diverted from immigration into customs, placing the country’s security at risk.
The committee is calling on the government to publish detailed plans on border operations after Brexit, which should include contingencies for additional staffing and infrastructure, new processes for business and the cost of implementing these plans.
Committee chair Yvette Cooper MP said: “The government should be aiming for transition arrangements which require no change at all in customs and border requirements, as everyone is running out of time to make any staffing, infrastructure or procedural changes – and they risk long delays at the border, both in the UK and abroad.
“Home Office ministers must now demonstrate that they are aware of the risks of introducing new customs arrangements and understand the work needed to mitigate them.
“As things stand, the government is running the risk of celebrating their first day of Brexit with the sight of queues of lorries stretching for miles in Kent and gridlock on the roads of Northern Ireland, which would be incredibly damaging to the UK economy and completely unacceptable to the country.”
The Home Affairs Committee report can be read here.