He UK it is now ‘free to do things differently, and if necessary better, than our friends in the EU’. This was stated by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in the message with which he congratulated not only the start of 2021, but also the beginning of a new stage after the consummation of the Brexi, once the trade agreement with the EU was signed and the eleven-month transition period that ended a decades-long relationship ended. Whether things will get better is something that remains to be seen; what is clear is that they are already different. In fact, at the same time that the “premier” gave his optimistic message, the Kent City Council warned on his Twitter account: “The rules for doing business with Europe have changed. It may take longer to process traffic leaving the UK, which will cause delays in passing through border controls. ‘
And it is that yesterday the first customs controls began to work both in France and in the ports of the island of Ireland, a direct consequence of the divorce between London and Brussels that means that, to avoid a hard land border between the two Ireland, commercial goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain They now require a customs declaration, as is the case for food products, which also require health certificates and therefore must be inspected by the Department of Agriculture. However, there will be no new processes or controls for the vast majority of products leaving Northern Ireland for England, Wales or Scotland.
It should be remembered that the Northern Ireland Protocol establishes that the province will remain in the EU’s single market for goods, which obliges it to apply Community customs rules in its ports. This will allow products to flow from there to the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU as they do now, without customs controls or new paperwork.
The Boris Johnson government also announced that there will be a three-month “grace period” for packages shipped by retailers, which will be exempt from customs declarations until April 1, a period it deems necessary to avoid disruptions in shipments. deliveries at a time when many stores are closed due to restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
No major incidents in ports
The first products crossed the borders this Friday without major incidents, partly thanks to the low volume of cargo due to the public holiday, in what is “the calmest weekend of the year” for traffic moving through the Irish Sea ports, said Tom Talbot, head of customs operations at the port of Dublin. Stena Line Ports, the company that operates the Port of Holyhead in Wales, said that around 20% of a small number of trucks heading to Dublin-bound ferries were returned because they did not have the correct documentation, but that most were able to correct the problem before boarding. There were also no significant delays or incidents reported at the ports of Dublin or Rosslare, and the first ferry to the Irish capital from Holyhead had around twelve trucks on board that entered safely. It is precisely the ports of Dublin and Holyhead that are the busiest in the Irish Sea.
However, the carriers reported that they only had a couple of weeks to familiarize themselves with the new computer systems needed to complete the paperwork and the Confederation of British Industry, which represents almost 200,000 companies, has asked authorities to help the companies. “With pragmatism and no sanctions”, since mistakes “should not be penalized in the coming weeks.” Our systems are working. We are ready for the volume increase next week “, assured for his part the general manager of the Irish Freight Transport Association, Aidan Flyn, who explained that it will take” weeks and not days “for the new system to work correctly. “Problems are expected. Nothing like this happens overnight and working perfectly. ”
In this vein, the Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, said that the change in trade agreements “inevitably” will cause problems. “We have avoided the kind of dramatic halt of a no-deal Brexit, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t changing,” he said, adding: “Now we are going to see the € 80 billion of trade across the Irish Sea. between Great Britain and Ireland interrupted by many more checks and declarations, red tape and paperwork, costs and delays. ‘
The British Government says it allocated more than £ 300 million to launch a merchant support service to help companies deal with the new customs agreements, although transport companies do not expect significant volumes of cargo in the next few days, mainly because, according to industry sources, “there has been significant storage before the changes and it may be a week or two before cargo volumes reach normal seasonal levels.”
Until then, it will not be apparent whether, as Johnson put it, “things will get better.”
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