A £705m funding package to boost infrastructure and recruit more staff on Britain’s border has been announced as the UK prepares to leave the EU customs union at the end of the year.
Plans include new border control posts and 500 extra Border Force staff.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said the move would help the UK “seize the opportunities” post-Brexit.
Labour has accused the government of complacency in its preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period.
The funding follows a leaked letter from International Trade Secretary Liz Truss raising concerns about the readiness of Britain’s ports.
Under the plans, new border posts will be created inland where existing ports have no room to expand to cope with the extra checks that will be required at the existing entry points.
The new funding will include up to £470m to build port and inland infrastructure, and £235m will be allocated for IT systems and staffing.
It relates only to the external borders of England, Scotland and Wales. The government is expected to publish specific guidance and measures for Northern Ireland in the coming weeks.
- Post-Brexit checks on EU imports to be phased in
- What is the transition period?
The UK left the EU on 31 January and is now in an 11-month transition period, during which existing trading rules and membership of the customs union and single market apply.
What the UK’s relationship with the EU will look like when the transition period ends will depend on whether a trade deal is reached.
Customs checks on EU goods will be delayed until July 2021.
It comes after a leaked letter, first reported by Business Insider, suggested Ms Truss had expressed concerns about the government’s plans to phase in checks on EU goods coming into the UK after the Brexit transition period.
Ms Truss reportedly warned fellow ministers that failing to impose full border controls until July could see increased smuggling from the EU, lead to legal challenges at the World Trade Organization, and even weaken the union with Northern Ireland.
The UK government has ruled out extending the transition period in order to reach a deal.
Mr Gove said: “With or without further agreement with the EU, this £705m will ensure that the necessary infrastructure, tech and border personnel are in place so that our traders and the border industry are able to manage the changes and seize the opportunities as we lay the foundations for the world’s most effective and secure border.”
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