Brexit: EU is playing ‘hardball’ with Northern Ireland says Hoey
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Meanwhile another expert has warned the collateral damage to the UK’s economy ”is of real concern”. Mr Johnson’s Government this week confirmed its unilateral decision to extend the grace period with relation to checks to January in a move which has come as a welcome relief to importers.
I can’t believe they could be so stupid
However, Steve Howell, whose West Country-based firm Foodlynx sells British bacon and sausages to hotels and resorts across the EU, is just one of those who is deeply unhappy.
He said: “My reaction is absolute dismay.
“I can’t believe they could be so stupid to kill UK exports, but allow free rein into our country from the EU.”
Industry chiefs are unhappy because they believe the decision hands EU companies a distinct advantage over those in the UK.
British firms have been required to comply with EU customs controls since the start of the year.
Recent statistics published by the Office for National Statistics have indicated exports to the bloc dropped by nearly 41 percent in January compared with a month earlier.
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James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “Postponing import checks hands a cost and administration advantage to foreign businesses.
“The damage to our economy is of real concern.”
The Cold Chain Federation, representing businesses that transport chilled and frozen food, has lamented the situation for creating an “ongoing unfairness” between UK and EU firms.
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Shane Brennan, the lobby group’s chief executive, said UK exporters “continue to face a hard border with all its costs and uncertainties and see their equivalents continuing to benefit from de-facto unfettered access to their domestic market.”
Speaking of the decision to extend the grace period, he added: “It’s not clear how this action will give the EU an incentive to be more willing to discuss ways to reduce the burdens on UK exporters.”
In a statement issued earlier this week, Lord David Frost, the UK’s Brexit negotiator and now a member of the Cabinet, said: “As a sovereign trading nation outside the EU, we have freedom to take decisions in our national interest – and in the interest of our businesses.
“We will now introduce border controls broadly six months later than planned to give traders time to focus on getting back on their feet as the economy opens up after a difficult year.
“We are confident that this new timetable will allow import businesses to re-establish their trading arrangements after a difficult period due to coronavirus, in the most straightforward and lightest touch way possible.”
The Cabinet Office yesterday said as well as helping businesses, the delayed timetable will minimise border disruption and boost the economic recovery.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said: “Although we recognise that many in the border industry and many businesses have been investing time and energy to be ready on time, and indeed we in Government were confident of being ready on time, we have listened to businesses who have made a strong case that they need more time to prepare.
“In reviewing the timeframes, we have given strong weight to the disruption which has been caused, and is still being caused, by Covid, and the need to ensure that the economy can recover fully.”
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