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Brexit talks in Brussels resumed this week as disputes over British lorry divers’ access to the EU has stalled progress. Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, met with his EU counterparts earlier this week.
The meeting commenced the seventh round of post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and EU.
Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy and public affairs at the Road Haulage Association, said the transported goods industry was “going through a groundhog day”.
Mr McKenzie referred to the period just before the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement was reached with Brussels last year.
He said: “The government doesn’t seem to have learned the lessons from what could have been a cliff-edge Brexit in October last year.”
The Government has now indicated that the UK will need a similar preparation whether there is a trade deal or not.
On Monday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, there will be changes for which UK businesses trading with the EU need to prepare.”
He added: “This will be an important moment of change, and there is at least initially a risk of some additional friction at the border.”
The plan is based on the possibility that congestion in the southeast of England could last throughout the first half of 2021.
It is also a time when the UK may have to brace for a potential resurgence of the coronavirus during the winter.
But Mr Johnson has chosen not to extend the Brexit transition period beyond the end of 2020.
The UK leaving the EU’s customs union and single market, means it will gain control over goods travelling in both directions.
Sam Lowe, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, said: “From a business preparedness point of view, for many companies there is little difference between preparing to exit the transition period with or without a free-trade agreement in place.”
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The Government has postponed plans for a set of customs controls for goods entering the UK to July next year.
It said the decision was taken to give businesses more time to prepare.
French authorities plan to “impose full EU customs and controlled goods checks on all goods travelling from GB to the EU’s customs territory at Hauts-de-France” according to Mr Shapps.
Ministers hoped the Brexit transition period would provide time for Businesses to prepare.
But the coronavirus pandemic has changed the situation dramatically.
A Confederation for British Industry survey recently revealed that one in five firms are less prepared for post-Brexit now than they were in January.
Craig Beaumont, chief of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, said smaller companies are currently focused on surviving through the pandemic.
He said: “They are aware that negotiations are happening with the EU, and we do need an ambitious deal that keeps trade easy but the focus right now remains firmly on COVID.”
The Government has said that given the impact of the pandemic, it would not be “prudent to assume that overall border readiness could be at levels similar to those anticipated for October 2019”.
Brexit negotiations to reach a trade deal with the EU will continue this week as the UK prepares to leave the transition period at the end of December.
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