Brexit: New unit to monitor border disruption once transition period ends

A new unit will be on the lookout for potential problems at the UK’s border once the Brexit transition period ends, the government has announced.

From 1 January, the Border Operations Centre will use specialists and cutting-edge software to help cope with disruption once the UK leaves the EU’s single market and customs union and moves to new trading arrangements.

With less than a month to go until the transition period ends, ministers are also stepping up their calls for businesses to prepare.

Firms will have to contend with changes regardless of whether or not the UK manages to strike a trade deal with Brussels in the coming weeks.

“At the end of the year we will take back control of our borders and that’s why we have set up the new Border Operations Centre to monitor and analyse flows of goods and people into the UK in real time,” Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said.

“This will help us tackle challenges quickly and decisively, and give us increased information which will make us safer and more secure.”

The centrepiece of the new operation will be the Border Flow Service software, which will gather information about the flow of goods and passengers.

Officials have acknowledged that changes in trading arrangements will likely mean there is “short-term” disruption at the border.

But they hope that better access to information and intelligence will minimise the disruption.

From July, UK imports from the continent will need safety and security declarations, which officials hope will help fight organised crime.

As the end of the transition approaches, the government has sent letters to businesses in a bid to make sure they know what they need to do in order to prepare.

“As we enter the home stretch, businesses must make sure they are fully prepared for the new rules and opportunities that being an independent trading nation will bring,” Business Secretary Alok Sharma said.

“Amongst all our proactive work with business, I have written to nearly five million firms across the UK outlining the top actions they need to take, and reminding them that the government is here to support them as the transition period ends.”

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said ministers were “once again” putting the “burden on businesses to prepare for the end of the transition period, when it has not explained what it is those businesses are getting ready for”.

She continued: “The government is rebadging a basic element of preparation but still can’t tell us how many customs agents are recruited or trained or whether crucial IT is ready.

“With glaring questions like these still unanswered, this government must do much more than just ‘demand action’ from UK businesses, already under huge pressure from the pandemic – and instead provide them with some much needed answers.”

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