In less than two weeks, ministers were warned of a range of questions regarding the ‘general state of readiness’ for the end of the Brexit transition phase.
Decisions were made “too late,” contact with firms was “patchy at best” and police could be forced to use “slower and more cumbersome” systems, said the Brexit committee of the House of Commons.
The warning was given by MPs in a report published on Saturday, as both Downing Street and Brussels said it would be difficult to achieve a trade agreement by 31 December.
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The chairperson of the committee, Hilary Benn, said that the government “is still unable to give businesses, traders and citizens certainty about what will happen in all areas affected by the negotiations.”
‘Significant issues persist with just seven working days before the end of the transition phase,’ the Labor MP said.
“At this late stage, the government must be prepared to implement contingency plans where necessary to mitigate the impact of any disruption. Failure to do so would mean the worst possible start to the new year for many people and businesses already experiencing the toughest of times.”
The cross-party committee said the results of the government’s efforts to communicate the imminent reforms seem “patchy at best” and cautioned that British firms could be hampered by the combination of Brexit confusion and Covid-19.
Arrangements must be made to guarantee that the U.K. The border is “safe and secure,” while ministers need to track closely the efficacy of alternate forms of exchanging information about law enforcement.
“The fallback systems for data sharing are slower and more cumbersome,” the MPs wrote.
They warned that it was “unlikely” for the EU-U.K. to do so. Agreements will be ready in time to replace the European arrest warrant.
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The MPs welcomed that consensus had been reached on the introduction of the Northern Ireland Protocol, but called on Westminster to work to reduce “traffic disruption” near British ports with the devolved governments.
They raised fears that “too late” key infrastructure decisions were being taken and that the “late delivery” of customs IT systems made it difficult to train and test.
And they cautioned that if there were not enough customs and veterinary personnel to carry out checks and provide advice, trade with the EU could be hampered.
“We are also concerned about the overall state of preparedness. It is important that the government works fully with the devolved governments and has robust contingency plans to deal with anything that happens after Jan. 1,”
A U.K. spokesperson for the “The government is investing GBP 705 million in jobs, technology and border infrastructure and providing GBP 84 million in grants to strengthen the customs brokerage sector,” the government said.
“With just days to go until the UK reboot on Jan. 1, it’s important that businesses and citizens make their final preparations now.”