Brexit chaos: Johnson’s border plans torn apart by OWN cabinet minister – LEAKED LETTER

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The UK is set to leave trading and customs rules set by the EU at the end of the transition period on December 31, but the Government has recently announced full border controls won’t be applied on goods until July 2021. But in a leaked letter seen by Business Insider, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, expressing our “key areas of concerns” about the Government’s plans to leave EU trading and custom rules this year. Ms Truss raised concerns about the legality of the UK’s plan for a phased approach on border checks on goods coming from the EU from January to July.

She warned the UK would “be vulnerable to WTO challenge” because of its border policy, as Britain would be providing the EU with preferential treatment in this six month period, and could be a breach of rules if there is not a free-trade agreement between London and Brussels in place by that time.

The International Trade Secretary also suggested from January 1, all goods going into Northern Ireland from other countries would have to have an EU tariff applied by default because a system to apply both UK and EU tariffs may not be ready to launch.

She wrote: “I understand that the digital delivery of the dual tariff system (both EU and UK tariff) in Northern Ireland is a high risk and that HMRC are planning to apply the EU tariff as a default to all imports in NI on 1 January 2021.”

Ms Truss also warned Mr Sunak and Mr Gove there is a risk of smuggling into the UK if all ports are not ready to enforce the full range of checks on goods from January.

The Cabinet Minister wrote: “I would like assurances that we are able to deliver full control at these ports by July 2021 and that plans are in place from January to mitigate the risk of goods being circumvented from ports implementing full controls.”

The International Trade Secretary also expressed fears about angering unionists in Northern Ireland, warning: “This is very concerning as this may call into question NI’s place in the UK customs territory.”

This will likely intensify fears in the country that businesses there could be hit with huge new costs on imported goods from next year.

Aodhan Connolly from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium told Business Insider: “If true, a plan to implement EU tariffs as a default provides unprecedented problems to retailers who trade in Northern Ireland.”

“Retail accounts for 70 percent of the value of trade that crosses GB-NI and even if we were able to reclaim the tariffs the implications for cash flow while waiting for refunds makes the premise untenable.”

“I am glad the International Trade Secretary shares our concerns about a workable system being in place by January 2021.

“That’s why we want to see tried and tested off the peg solutions such as a trusted trader or green channel scheme that will remove friction and allow the majority of goods to flow freely.”

In her letter to Mr Sunak and Mr Gove, the International Trade Secretary also said: “I am pleased to hear that following the XO meeting last Friday, it was decided that the temporary waving of export declarations will not be included in the publication.”

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Ms Truss finished the letter by telling her Chancellor colleagues: “We need to ensure that the UK border is effective and compliant with international rules, maintaining our credibility with trading partners, the WTO and with business.”

A Government spokesman did not deny the concerns, but said: “We do not comment on leaks.”

Former advisor to Theresa May, Raoul Ruparel, downplayed the concerns on Twitter.

He said: “Think some clarification needed on some of this. Usual DIT gripes which have been around for some time.

“What they actually want is a harder border on day 1 as it suits their trade negotiations & WTO role. That would be a bad thing. The phased approach is the right call.”

Regarding the Business Insider piece, he said: “I think the article unfortunately misunderstands the point Truss is making about NI. She is not referring to tariffs between GB and NI but on a dual tariff for RoW goods entering NI.

“This won’t be ready for day one. Not ideal but not the end of the world either.

“The question of a WTO challenge has been around since the previous Government announced its no deal border approach. While not impossible, it is a temporary approach & I think on solid enough legal ground.”

On Monday, the Prime Minister and his Government are set to publish detailed plans around how the operations around borders will work.

But the leaked letter from Ms Truss has infuriated Labour, who have accused the Government of “making things up as they go”.

Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: “This email confirms fears that several ministers have been making things up as they go with a lack of awareness of the real world consequences of border policies they’ve had four years to develop.

“At the general election, people were promised an ‘oven-ready’ deal to be implemented by the end of this year, not chaos, confusion and a further risk to jobs.”

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