Portsmouth Port to ‘plan for any issues’ as report warns that UK border may not be ready in time for Brexit

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BRITAIN is facing significant challenges to ensure its border is fully functioning after leaving the EU, a report has warned. 

The National Audit Office (NAO) said today (October 24) that political uncertainty and delays in negotiating a deal with the European Union has hampered the effectiveness of border planning. 

Portsmouth International Port director Mike Sellers. Picture: M.Focard de Fontefiguieres

Portsmouth International Port director Mike Sellers. Picture: M.Focard de Fontefiguieres

Portsmouth International Port will form part of the UK’s border post-Brexit and could be affected if it had problems functioning. 

Mike Sellers, the port’s director said: ‘As one of the UK’s major ports we are working with our partners, such as Border Force, to make sure we are in the best possible position for any changes post-Brexit.

READ MORE: No-deal Brexit ‘could turn M275 into lorry park’ warns Portsmouth port director

‘We are in regular discussions with our Border Force colleagues to try and plan for any issues which could impact on our customers, and we have used meetings with government bodies to ensure they understand the demands on our Port.’ 

The NAO has warned that business reliant on the border running smoothly would ‘pay the price’ if it is not fully functioning when the UK leaves the EU. 

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said today: ‘Government has openly accepted the border will be sub-optimal if there is no deal with the EU on 29 March 2019.

‘It is not clear what sub-optimal means in practice, or how long this will last. But what is clear is that businesses and individuals who are reliant on the border running smoothly will pay the price.’ 

READ MORE: Fareham MP Suella Braverman says Britain ‘will thrive’ with no-deal Brexit

The report added that changes the government needs to make in event of no-deal may not be ready on time. 

With the NAO listing the changes as: 

- 11 of 12 critical systems needing to be replaced or changed to manage the border were at risk of not being delivered on time and to acceptable quality.1

- New infrastructure to track and physically examine goods cannot be built before March 2019. Without this, the UK will not be able to fully enforce compliance regimes at the border on day one.2

- Border Force intends to recruit 581 staff by March 2019 and expects to increase its staff in the months following. However, given uncertainty regarding the future regime, and the length of time it takes to recruit, security clear and train staff, Border Force acknowledges that there is a significant risk that it will not deploy all the staff it plans to recruit by March 29, 2019.

- There is an increased delivery risk due to the high interdependence between ‘at risk’ government programmes reliant on another ‘at risk’ programme. For example, seven of the most critical border systems are interdependent with the Customs Declaration Service and/or its legacy system CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight); and all must be ready on day one for the border to operate as planned.

- The most complex issues relating to the movement of goods at the border, such as arrangements to apply at the Northern Ireland and Ireland border and still need to be resolved.