Britain’s post-Brexit border arrangements will cost $6 billion

The British government estimates it will spend at least 4.7 billion pounds ($6 billion) on implementing border arrangements after Brexit, after repeated delays in setting new rules, parliament’s spending watchdog said on Monday.

Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, but the task of untangling supply chains and customs borders was so enormous that it will only set new rules this year.

The first phase of Britain’s so-called new Border Target Operating Model, which requires additional certification, came into effect on January 31.

A second phase started on April 30, introducing physical checks at ports. A third phase, requiring safety and security clearances, is scheduled for October 31.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said the figure of £4.7 billion is the amount the government expects to spend on the 13 main programs to manage the transit of goods across the border post-Brexit and monitor performance over the to improve the duration of the programmes.

The government has postponed the implementation of full controls five times since the end of the transition period for leaving the EU on December 31, 2020.

This caused uncertainty for businesses, extra costs for the government and ports and increased biosecurity risk for Britain, the NAO said.

“Repeated delays in introducing import controls and difficulties in predicting requirements have resulted in government spending on infrastructure and personnel that was ultimately unnecessary,” the report said.

“Late policy announcements and uncertainty about the implementation of controls have also reduced the ability of companies and ports to prepare for changes.”

The NAO noted that while border processes following the EU exit have been “relatively smooth”, businesses trading goods between the UK and the EU have faced additional costs and administrative burdens.

The watchdog was also critical of the UK’s 2025 Border Strategy, which was published in 2020, saying it “lacks a clear timetable and integrated implementation plan across government, with individual departments leading on different aspects of implementation.”

The government also needed “a more realistic approach” to digital transformation, the NAO said.

($1 = 0.7895 pounds)

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