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Brexit: UK to spend €790m on new GB-EU border control systems ready for 2021

The British government has announced nearly €800 million in funding for new border infrastructure to prepare for checks and controls from January after the post-Brexit transition ends.

There are plans for new border posts, improved technology and hundreds of extra staff to deal with the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU’s Customs Union, regardless of the outcome of trade talks.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said the £705 million (€788 million) investment would ensure that borders were ready for “full independence… when the UK takes back control on January 1, 2021”, in an article for the Daily Telegraph also published on the UK government website.

The package reportedly includes £470 million (€525 million) for infrastructure at ports and also inland to deal with customs controls. Another £235 million (€262 million) is to be spent on 500 border staff and IT systems.

It covers EU borders with Great Britain: England, Scotland and Wales. Plans for Northern Ireland are expected to be announced later.

There have been concerns about the UK’s preparedness for the impact of the new rules and questions as to why such projects were not launched earlier.

Gove’s counterpart from the Labour opposition, Rachel Reeves, said in a TV interview the end of the transition period was barely five months away but the government had had “four years now to put in place the procedures” to ensure the free flow of goods and services.

In a letter leaked to Business Insider last week, the UK’s international trade secretary Liz Truss raised deep concerns about the government’s border plans, warning that they could break international trade rules and lead to smuggling from the EU.

Michael Gove said the new technology would help deal more effectively with organised crime and security threats.

The senior minister and Brexit enthusiast added that a major public information campaign would be launched to enable people and businesses take steps to “help this big change” go as smoothly as possible.

On Friday the Guardian reported that the British government had bought up land some 30 kilometres inland from Dover, to build a vast customs clearance site for the thousands of lorries that pass through the busy port each day.

Boris Johnson’s government has said it plans to phase in checks on goods from the EU — although on the continent checks on goods arriving from the UK are due to start immediately.

Last week the European Commission outlined in detail the changes — including “thorough” border checks — that will apply when the transition period ends, regardless of the outcome of trade negotiations. It said the extra costs and red tape were the natural consequence of the UK’s decision to leave the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union.

On Monday the British government is due to give more details of its planned new “points-based” immigration system to come into force from January, ending European workers’ freedom of movement to the UK. Gove argues the new rules, designed to entice higher-skilled workers, will attract “scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs”.

The United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31 this year, but during the 11-month transition period trading and most other arrangements remain unchanged.

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