Liz Truss warns of ‘real world consequences’ over post-Brexit border policy in explosive leaked letter

PUBLISHED: 09:40 09 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:41 09 July 2020

International trade secretary Liz Truss. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

International trade secretary Liz Truss. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

The international trade secretary has warned Boris Johnson that his Brexit border plans could damage the UK’s international credibility and may be subjected to a World Trade Organization challenge, a leaked email has found.

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Liz Truss wrote a letter to senior cabinet members Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove outlining her “key areas of concerns” about the government border policy in Northern Ireland, Business Insider reports.

In the letter, Truss - who is currently leading trade negotiations with the US - reportedly warned that Downing Street could be “vulnerable to WTO (World Trade Organsiation) challenge” over its border policy by temporarily giving the EU preferential treatment in the absence of a trade deal.

Brussels has previously warned that plans not to impose controls on goods travelling from Northern Ireland into mainland Britain amounted to breaking the Withdrawal Agreement signed in January.

In the agreement, the UK has promised to impose the EU customs code, which includes completing declarations for products moving into Britain, however, Downing Street is now refusing to comply.

Instead, its introduced plans to steadily phase border checks in until July 2021.

MORE: EU receives UK request to build border posts in Northern Ireland as part of post-Brexit arrangements

The trade secretary is said to have asked for “assurances” that the UK will deliver full border controls at ports by July next year and that plans are in place from January “to mitigate the risk of goods being circumvented from ports implementing full controls”.

She also warned of angering unionists in Northern Ireland by delivering the “high-risk” dual tariff system on all imports to the nation on January 1.

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“This is very concerning as this may call into question NI’s place in the UK customs territory,” she said, according to the report.

She added: “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.”

MORE: Northern Ireland secretary accused of dodging scrutiny committee examining post-Brexit arrangements

Number 10 did not deny claims set out in the letter while a spokesman said that it would “not comment on leaks”.

Shadow cabinet office minister Rachel Reeves 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.”

Naomi Smith, the CEO of Best For Britain, said: “The government ignored concerns that we wouldn’t be ready to end the transition period on 31st December, despite numerous warnings from business and trade bodies.

“This email proves that those concerns were valid, and the senior cabinet minister trusted with Britain’s future trade shares them.”

The prime minister’s full border operating plans are expected to be published this month.

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