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Whatever Happened To The Promise Of Frictionless Trade With The EU?

Michael Gove the Cabinet Office Minister said on Monday that the UK plans to introduce import controls on European Union goods at the border when the transition period ends in December.


The volte-face by Michael Gove and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not the first time the two politicians have not been straight with the British people and sadly it will not be the last.


During the Brexit campaign in 2016, Boris Johnson promised the hard of thinking and the gullible that the British could eat their cake and have it. Mr Johnson and Michael Gove promised a Brexit where the UK would exit the EU but still retain all the benefits of being part of the bloc.


One such benefit currently enjoyed by the UK is frictionless trade with other members of the EU because membership of the EU includes being in a customs union with access to the single market. Frictionless trade then happens when goods that have cleared customs in one country are shipped to others in the union without further tariffs being imposed.


And the single-market allows the free movement of the goods under the bloc's 4 freedoms of goods, services, capital and people, given that the rules and governance are the same for all members.


Imposing import or customs controls at UK borders for EU goods will attract reciprocal action by the EU, which will be problematic for trade. For instance, Dover the UK's main crossing to continental Europe handles about 4.2 million freight units per year, which works out to a truck every 7.5 seconds.


The port is only able to handle that volume of goods because there is frictionless trade with the rest of the EU. Introducing the sort of external checks and border controls that Michael Gove appears to be suggesting, would add more time to the well practised and effective system in place at Dover.


Any delays of even up to a minute could lead to the kind of gridlock that would severely impede the flow of essential goods between Dover and Calais in France.


Providers of essentials like medicines, as well as industries like carmakers relying on the just-in-time supply chain, that ensures component parts are always ready to be added to the production process, will struggle.


The impact on the UK's economy will be significant, and even as Gove and Johnson continue breaking promises, many will still keep the faith because it seems that there are a lot of people who like being lied to.

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