Gove confirms border checks to be imposed from January 1 - despite PM’s denial

Prime Minister Boris Johnson before he participates in a TV interview. Photograph: Neil Hall/PA.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson before he participates in a TV interview. Photograph: Neil Hall/PA. - Credit: PA

Goods coming to Britain from the EU will face import controls from January 1 next year, senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove has warned, despite Boris Johnson insisting there will be no border checks after Brexit.

During the election campaign the prime minister had promised "there won't be checks" for goods crossing the Irish sea, and claimed a leaked Treasury document about checks on the Northern Ireland border was "wrong".

He told Sky News: "[This deal] allows the whole of the UK to come out of the EU including Northern Ireland and the only checks that there would be, would be if something was coming from GB via Northern Ireland and was going on to the Republic, then there might be checks at the border into Northern Ireland."

Pressed on the document talking about "checks both ways", he said "that's wrong because there won't be checks".

But now in a speech Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has confirmed that import controls on EU goods at the border will be imposed after the transition period ends on December 31 and said border checks would apply to "almost everybody".

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"The UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union, so we will have to be ready for the customs procedures and regulatory checks that will inevitably follow," he said, according to extracts released by the Cabinet Office.

"As a result of that we will be in a stronger position, not just to make sure that our economy succeeds outside the European Union but that we are in a position to take advantage of new trading relationships with the rest of the world."

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The British Retail Consortium (BRC) warned the government would have to move fast to get infrastructure in place for the start of 2021.

It said that without adequate preparations the availability of goods on shelves would be disrupted, with fresh fruit and vegetables especially vulnerable.

Andrew Opie, BRC director of food and sustainability, said ministers needed to set out detailed plans on how the controls would be implemented if the flow of goods to consumers was to be maintained.

"Government will need to move fast if it intends to provide the necessary infrastructure to carry out full border controls on imported goods from January 2021," he said.

"Without the necessary infrastructure up and running from day one, consumers in the UK will see significant disruption, particularly in the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables.

"Staff will need to be hired and trained to carry out these checks on the thousands of lorries that enter the UK every day.

"IT systems must be adapted and tested. Holding facilities for lorries, particularly at Dover and Folkestone, will need to be constructed.

"It is not enough to announce checks will take place, we must see plans now as to how this will be possible in practice, or it will be consumers who suffer on January 1."

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