A group of British lawmakers have accused the UK government of “taking limited responsibility” for Brexit readiness and have warned there could be “serious disruption and delay” at Channel crossings after the Brexit transition period ends in just four weeks’ time.
In a report published on Dec. 2 (pdf), the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said it remains “extremely concerned about the risk of serious disruption and delay at the short Channel crossings.”
The committee said the government “is not doing enough to ensure businesses and citizens will be ready for the end of the transition period,” despite having spent at least £4.4 billion and involved as many as 22,000 civil servants in EU exit preparations.
Meg Hillier, a Labour MP who chairs the committee, said “the evidence suggests that come January 1st we face serious disruption and delay at the short Channel crossings that deliver a majority of our fresh food supplies.”
“Pretending that things you don’t want to happen are not going to happen is not a recipe for government, it is a recipe for disaster,” she said.
The UK government dismissed the criticism and emphasised that “significant preparations” are being made.
The government has invested £705 million in jobs, technology, and infrastructure at the border, and has provided £84 million in grants to boost the customs intermediaries sector, a government spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.
The UK officially pulled out of the EU in January but entered a transition period in which trading arrangements—such as tariffs and quotas—remained unaltered. That transition ends at midnight on Dec. 31.
Talks on a post-Brexit trade deal are still ongoing, weeks before the UK exits the EU’s single and market. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday the talks were entering the “last real major week.”
If the two sides fail to reach an agreement, the UK will have to trade with EU countries under World Trade Organisation rules from Jan. 1.
According to the PAC report, government survey data suggests that 36 percent of small and medium-sized businesses still believe the transition period will be extended, and the Cabinet Office does not know whether the remaining 64 percent have taken action to be ready.
The government concurred that it is “vital that businesses and citizens make their final preparations.”
“That’s why we’re intensifying our engagement with businesses through the Brexit Business Taskforce and running a major public information campaign so they know exactly what they need to do to get ready,” said the government spokesperson.