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The EU’s chief negotiator told a House of Lords Committee Brussels “will not delay things” after Britain announced a gradual three phased implementation of border checks of its own. Ministers said full border checks will now only apply on EU goods entering the UK from July 2021. Mr Barnier said the EU was ready for Britain to leave the Customs Union and Single Market at the end of the transition period on January 1.
We are ready. Everyone has to accept their responsibilities. We have accepted ours
He warned every UK product imported into the EU would face checks once whether there was a trade deal or not.
He told peers: “All products coming into the Single Market through the borders in Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France or elsewhere will have to be checked, which of course is not the case today.
“We have recruited customs officers, 750 in the Netherlands, 700 in France, close to 400 in Belgium and many in Ireland as well, because we will have to carry out checks on products coming into the European Union.
“We are ready. Everyone has to accept their responsibilities. We have accepted ours.”
Customs bosses and haulage industry leaders have warned Britain is falling “many thousands” short of its target to train an estimated 50,000 new customs officers.
And businesses chiefs fear a new IT system to check EU-bound goods will not be up and running in time.
Mr Barnier said: “As of 1 January, all products coming in to the Single Market — coming from any third non-EU country anywhere in the world, including yours, because you are a third country — will be checked.
“If there is no deal, there would be tariffs and quotas on top of that, which would be very cumbersome and very complicated but we would have to do that.”
Failure to strike a trade deal will see the two sides trading on less lucrative WTO terms with tariffs and quotas.
Mr Barnier said the EU had offered the UK a “precautionary” extension to the transition period but the UK had rejected it.
Boris Johnson always insisted he would never extend the transition period and the deadline for any extension request has now passed.
Mr Barnier said: “We were open to an extension, even a precautionary extension, in case of need, making allowance for one before 30 June, even if in practice we did not need to use it, or all of it.
“But the UK refused to do that, so that means that time is of the essence for the negotiations.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator and his UK counterpart David Frost will have a private dinner in Downing Street tonight ahead of the latest round of trade-deal talks.
Major stumbling blocks include the “level playing field” – conditions Brussels demands to ensure fair competition by keeping the UK closely tied to EU standards on workers’ rights, the environment and state subsidies – and fishing rights.
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Mr Barnier insisted the EU was “doing everything to succeed” in reaching an agreement “but not at any price”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said while the talks were “informal”, discussions were likely to “cover everything from what the EU calls the level playing field through to governance structures”.
Last week, discussions between the two sides on a post-Brexit trade deal broke up early with “significant differences” remaining.
Mr Johnson is adamant the discussions will not drag on into the autumn, arguing that British businesses and citizens need certainty on the way forward before then.
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