Brexit border checks on EU goods highly likely to be delayed beyond July

Sources have said checks on goods coming from Ireland into the UK are unlikely to start in July as planned as the UK Government continues to negotiate with the EU around the protocol.

An inland border post was due to be constructed near Cairnryan at a cost of £30m to the taxpayer, however construction has been halted since September and it is still unknown who will foot the bill.

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Cairnryan is Scotland’s main port linking the country with Northern Ireland, but the Scottish Government said it is still unknown whether a border post is still “definitely needed”.

Photo from Transport Scotland of Dumfries and Galloway airfield which is to be used by hundreds of lorries in case of post-Brexit disruption at Cairnryan port.

The Northern Ireland protocol is a key aspect of the Brexit deal signed off by Boris Johnson in late 2020, which sees checks on goods imported from Great Britain at Northern Irish ports to allow them to move across the border into the Republic of Ireland.

Checks also have to take place in Scotland due to the fact goods entering the UK from the EU are now subject to the same entry requirements as if they had come from the rest of the world, creating a customs border in the Irish Sea.

The protocol has been subject to a fierce row since Brexit, with the UK Government repeatedly clashing with the EU as it seeks to rewrite the terms of the protocol it agreed to and has threatened to implement Article 16.

This allows either side to implement “safeguarding measures”, should they believe the protocol is causing serious practical problems or the diversion of trade.

The sign welcoming drivers to the P&O ferry terminal in Cairnryan, Dumfries and Galloway

The planned border post in Cairnryan had £300,000 worth of ground inspections undertaken over the winter, but the Scottish Government has said there is no clarity on who will pick up the rest of the bill.

A spokesperson said: “The UK Government has told us that it cannot confirm that a Border Control Post at Cairnryan is definitely needed until it has completed its discussions with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“Scottish Ministers have asked that the full value of a Border Control Post at Cairnryan will be met by UK Government, in line with promises made during the Brexit campaign, however as yet no funding has been received or confirmed.

“The lack of action and engagement from the UK Government on this matter is extremely concerning, especially given the potential impacts further delays will have on biosecurity.”

It was reported last week that the UK was exploring whether to delay the introduction of checks further.

Boris Johnson is said to have not yet made a final decision on the matter, but it is understood that it is unlikely they will be in place in July.

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, said: “There is a logic given the ripples in the supply chain created by the Ukraine crisis, but there’s no doubt this will stick in the throat of a lot of exporters who are now 15 months into navigating a tsunami of paperwork that our EU competitors are not facing,”

The UK Government was contacted for comment.

HMRC declined to comment.

Want to hear more from The Scotsman’s politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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