The business minister has failed to rule out that the supply of coronavirus vaccine could be affected by Brexit when the transition period ends on December 31.
Cabinet minister Alok Sharma repeatedly did not appear to dispute warnings from Croda International, which supplies a crucial ingredient in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate, that there could be Brexit impact.
“This is an issue… across many sectors but that is precisely why we have been investing hundreds of millions of pounds in terms of border infrastructure, and we’ve been investing in grants for customs intermediaries,” he said.
“It’s why we are making a very big effort to communicate with businesses to make sure that they are ready, so that they can get customs clearances done.
“All of that work is ongoing. If we all get prepared, we will be in absolutely the right place post-transition.”
Talks on a post-Brexit trade deal are still ongoing, but even if an agreement is reached there will still be major changes to cross-border trade as the UK leaves the single market and customs union.
Sharma said: “Whatever form of deal we end up with with the European Union, there are going to be changes for businesses, and my department has been writing on a weekly basis to hundreds of thousands of businesses, making them aware of individual areas where they’re going to have to have a look and see whether they’re ready for the end of transition.
“That may be in terms of customs clearances, it may be how they’re looking to employ people who are currently working in the European Union, issues around work permits if they’re going to go and work in the European Union.
“All of these issues I think businesses, of course, will want to address.”
Concern about hauliers facing disruption crossing the English Channel has led the government to introduce a permit system to enter Kent, only allowing lorries destined for the continent into the county if they have the correct paperwork.
The increased bureaucracy surrounding imports and exports has sparked fears of delays, something which can have a dramatic impact on time-sensitive goods.