Problems at the EU-UK border will only get worse, despite trade agreement

The Brexit causes an increased amount of administrative burdens for freight transport between the EU and the UK. The problems in the upcoming months are expected to increase rapidly, especially when the flow of goods picks up again, and border controls intensify. According to Martijn Schippers, Assistant Professor of Customs Law at Erasmus School of Law, the EU-UK trade agreement does not bring any relief in this regard, let alone establish free trade. In the past weeks, Schippers spoke about this issue to multiple media outlets. 

The worst is yet to come
Working up to 1 January 2021, British media have stocked up goods from the EU and vice versa. However, when the economy after the corona crisis picks up again, and the warehouses are running out of stock, Schippers will fear the consequences. "I think it will get a lot worse when the hoarded supplies are running out.", he states to BNR. In addition, the increased border patrols will be introduced in phases. As a result, especially on the British side of the border, the problems will increase.

Improper preparation
It is unclear who instigated the problems at the border. Businesses had four and a half years to prepare for Brexit. Schippers: "You would think that businesses would have done everything it takes, but even big companies forgot specific flows of goods in their impact analyses. [However,] it is unfair to say that companies should have prepared better. The political ambiguity did not make things any easier." In his line of work, Schippers even sees well-prepared companies that run into trouble. To NRC, he points out that the trade agreement is not offering the simplifications everyone hoped for. The agreement was drawn up at a fast pace and contains simplifications, but are mostly inapplicable due to the lack of implementation rules: "This is not at all well thought through; the agreement was put together really quickly."

A snag
On Christmas Eve last year, the final Brexit-deal was announced. In the British House of Commons, Johnson stated that British exporters would not face any trade barriers, import duties or quota's, despite leaving the EU. In de Volkskrant and in his recent blog, Schippers contests this position: "[This innuendo] is absolutely untrue. (…) The well-known snag, in this case, is that the zero per cent tariff only applies to goods that comply with the rules of origin. This basically means that this trade agreement only covers British export to the EU of goods with the 'British nationality' [and vice versa]."

Assistant professor
More information

Click here for the article by BNR on the expected Brexit traffic jams (Dutch).

Click here for NRC's article on the import and export problems caused by Brexit (Dutch).