Michael Gove has been criticised by Labour for failing to answer a “basic question” on how many customs agents are ready to deal with Brexit at the end of the transition period in six weeks’ time.
Shadow cabinet office minister Rachel Reeves was asking Brexiteer Gove about the fact that the transition period now ends in “less than 50 days”.
“On our side of the House, we’ve been clear that failing to achieve a deal with the EU would be a disaster for the British economy.
“But deal or no deal, preparation needs to be in place for whatever new trading relationships are on the 1st January.
“In February this year, the minister recognised the need for 50,000 customs agents, trained and ready to go by the end of this year. And in July, he announced a £50m new fund to make this happen.
“So can the minister now update this House on how many customs agents are now trained and ready to go?”
But dodging the question the minister told MPs: “50,000 was always an estimate, there has been a significant increase in the number of customs agents that have been employed, both by companies themselves with in-house capacity and also through intermediaries who have been scaling up their own activities as well.”
Slamming the response, Reeves said: “It’s frustrating that the minister cannot answer this basic question.
“One minute he wants to channel his inner Roosevelt, and the next minute he says that this should all be left to the market.
“Businesses are demanding leadership and they are demanding action.”