The Government is expected to backtrack on its plan to introduce full border checks with the EU from January 1 over fears of the economic impact of coronavirus. In February, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said imports from the EU would have been subject to the same customs and regulatory checks as those coming from the rest of the world. However, according to the Financial Times, the Government intends to introduce “a temporary light-touch regime at UK ports such as Dover for incoming EU goods” whether or not a trade deal is agreed.
Mr Gove is expected to make an announcement later today.
A Government source said: “We recognise the impact that coronavirus has had on UK businesses, and as we take back control of our laws and our borders at the end of this year, we will take a pragmatic and flexible approach to help business adjust to the changes and opportunities of being outside the single market and the customs union.”
The news was immediately criticised by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who accused the Government of “betrayal” on Twitter and claimed it is “a very bad sign”.
Even though Downing Street blamed the coronavirus crisis for the backtracking, unearthed reports suggest the UK might have started caving in to EU’s demands in order to strike a trade deal.
According to a throwback report by The Independent, in 2017, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had warned the UK that the country would have paid a price if it limited migration from the EU and implemented border checks after Brexit.
At an assembly of labour representatives from the G20 industrialised countries in Berlin, Ms Merkel said: “This is not meant maliciously, but you cannot have all of the good things and then say there’s a limit of 100,000 or 200,000 EU citizens allowed to enter the UK.
“That won’t work.
“At that point, we’ll have to think about which restrictions we make on the European side to compensate for that.”
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“The British auto industry also lives on supplies from continental European countries.
“It is up to the British side, who are expressing the wish to have the fewest possible distortions.”
Ms Merkel also warned about the dangers of the UK possibly trying to seek economic advantage by opting out of the EU’s employment and environmental protection rules.
She added: “We must consider how we will react when naturally the competitive landscape can shift?”
Asked by a British delegate about the impact of Brexit on those who voted against, Ms Merkel said “we will always keep in mind the 48 or 49 percent who didn’t vote for Brexit” as well as the interests of Germans living in the UK.