EU trade friction is price UK has to pay to be sovereign after Brexit – Leadsom
Friction in the trading relationship with the European Union is the “price” the UK is paying to be a “sovereign state again” after Brexit, a UK Government minister has said.
Dame Andrea Leadsom, a Conservative health minister and prominent Leave supporter, said businesses would have to “adapt” after the introduction on Wednesday of new post-Brexit checks on food, drink and some agricultural imports, including fresh flowers.
The long-delayed new rules are part of the UK Government’s introduction of a series of checks this year.
Fears have been expressed about the disruption the changes could cause to supply chains, with MPs also warning that the new border regime could present “serious biosecurity risks” to the UK.
Dame Andrea, a former business secretary, said traders were made aware that Brexit would mean leaving the European single market, resulting in “additional checks at the border”.
“There was no surprise about that,” she told Sky News.
Told about a florist who has said they will struggle to import flowers from the Netherlands because of the additional checks, Dame Andrea appeared to suggest they should instead buy from the “many parts of the United Kingdom that are flower growers”.
Pressed on whether she was saying businesses should curtail trade with Europe as a result of the added red tape, the minister replied: “I’m not saying that at all.
“Leaving the single market was always going to have implications… I’m just saying that businesses need to adapt to meet the changing environment.”
In another interview with Times Radio, Dame Andrea said: “There is a huge new opportunity for the UK at the same time as continuing to trade, albeit with some friction (with the EU), which is the price you pay for leaving the single market and for being a sovereign state again.
“For me as a Brexiteer, I am still absolutely convinced that this is the right thing to do.”
Home Secretary James Cleverly looked to calm fears about the changes in comments made on Tuesday, saying there would be “no interruption” to food on supermarket shelves as a result of the new rules.
Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to Paris, he said: “We’re going to make sure that these sensible, responsible checks are done in a way that makes no interruption to the supply of food to the shelves, so people don’t need to worry about that.”
On the eve of the arrangements coming into force, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee wrote to Steve Barclay, the Environment Secretary, to express unease about some of the preparations the Government has made.
Goods from Britain have faced similar controls from the EU since it left the bloc’s single market at the start of 2021, but the UK has repeatedly put off checks in the other direction.
Committee chairman Sir Robert Goodwill said he was concerned over plans that would see departmental funding for spot checks on products of animal origin at Dover reduced by around 70%.
The Tory MP said: “We remain concerned about the location of the physical checks that will be undertaken for commercial loads.”
Under the new post-Brexit system, dubbed the Border Target Operating Model, health checks on foods arriving at Dover will be carried out at a facility in Sevington, Kent, about 22 miles inland.
The Dover Port Authority has been among those expressing concern about the plan, as well as the prospect of funding cuts.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “We have strict border controls in place to protect food and animal health safety and these, along with our high biosecurity standards, remain unchanged.
“Following careful consideration of the options for border control posts in Kent, we announced our intention to consolidate physical controls at the inland border facility at Sevington.
“We are confident that Sevington will have the necessary measures in place to appropriately mitigate biosecurity risks that relate to this facility being located away from the point of entry.”
Rules are set to be updated further in the months to come.
By April 30, medium-risk animal products from the EU will undergo documentary, identity and physical checks.
From October 31, safety and security declarations for EU imports will become mandatory, along with a more streamlined dataset for imports.
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