Brexit port delays down to UK Government, says Mike Russell
The failure of the UK Government to prepare for Brexit is behind emerging delays and backlogs at ports, according to Scotland’s Constitution Secretary.
There have even been reports of lorries being refused entry at some ports as the impact of new regulations and customs checks begin to bite.
UK Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove warned there was likely to be "significant disruption" at borders over coming weeks.
And Scottish Constitution Secretary Michael Russell blamed the situation on UK ministers over their handling of the country's departure from the EU.
“The problems that we are seeing at various borders now are exactly the sorts of issues that Scottish ministers have been raising since the Brexit referendum," Mr Russell said.
“The customs and border compliance requirements, that have long existed for ‘third countries’, were always going to burden shippers and traders if UK membership of the customs union ended.
“We repeatedly pointed out the need for businesses to have time to prepare, given the complexity of the rules and IT systems involved.
“We are doing all we can to mitigate the impact of Brexit, which was pursued, despite our advice, during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is having such a significant impact on business and the economy.
“However, the UK Government chose not to extend the transition period and only completed the Brexit deal days before the end of the transition period, making it impossible for businesses to properly prepare."
A last-minute deal struck between Downing Street and Brussels on Christmas Eve meant businesses ensured that tariff-free trade continued, but firms have had little time to prepare for the specific terms they would be bound by for exporting.
Among the problems are export health certificates, which are now necessary for food exports to the EU.
Mr Russell said: "The UK Government, with their bad Brexit deal, chose to impose these extra burdens on business at a time of unprecedented challenge, which is utterly unacceptable and very damaging to the economy and for jobs.”
Analysis produced by the Scottish Government has previously shown that new delays at the border, including new customs formalities, are expected to cost Scotland and rest of the UK businesses £7 billion annually.
Mr Gove said he expected there to be "significant additional disruption" at UK borders as a result of Brexit customs changes in coming weeks.
Speaking to broadcasters, he said: "So far disruption at the border hasn't been too profound, but it is the case that in the weeks ahead we expect that there will be significant additional disruption, particularly on the Dover-Calais route.
"It is our responsibility in government to make sure that business is as ready as possible, and hauliers and traders have already done a lot, but we have to redouble our efforts to communicate the precise paperwork that is required in order to make sure that trade can flow freely.”
The Scottish Seafood Association, which represents processors, has already told how exports to the EU are being hit by unnecessary delays, resulting from the full impact of Brexit being felt from January 1 onwards.
In response, UK Government Minister for Scotland David Duguid said: “The Scottish Government has persistently refused to accept the democratic vote to leave the EU, but that does not allow them to abdicate their responsibilities to Scottish businesses.
“Over the past 18 months they have assured the fishing industry that the systems they were putting in place would be adequate. They clearly are not.”
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