Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is anticipated to make an announcement on Friday over border operations for when Brexit fully comes into effect at the end of the transition period. The UK had committed to introduce import controls on EU goods in the new year, but ministers are now expected to adopt a more flexible approach over concerns businesses will be compounded by further chaos on top of COVID-19.
A Government source told the Financial Times: “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.”
This means instead of full checks, temporary light touch checks will be made at UK ports for incoming EU goods.
Officials admitted that goods to the EU from the UK are likely to face full checks as they enter into France.
Mr Gove will have the second joint committee agreed under the Withdrawal Agreement with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic on Friday.
UK sources said that unless both sides agree to another such meeting before the end of July, it will be the last opportunity to request an extension to the transition period.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted he will not ask for a Brexit delay, despite businesses and critics warning of the dangers of a departure without a trade agreement in place.
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A Downing Street spokesman said: “The UK and the EU have agreed an intensified timetable for FTA negotiations in July.
“This new process will involve a mix of formal negotiating rounds and smaller group meetings, both in London and Brussels assuming public health guidelines enable this.”
Number 10 said the pace of talks will be scaled up so negotiators will meet in each of the five weeks between June 29 and July 27.
The UK’s 14-day quarantine period for new arrivals should not hinder the talks in its current form, with the rules having an exemption for those on official visits such as negotiations.
The new details came after the fourth round of negotiations failed to reach a breakthrough last week.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier lamented there having been “no significant areas of progress” as he accused the UK of having “backtracking” on the agreed political declaration.
While the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost warned talks would have to “intensify and accelerate” the process if there was to be any chance of an agreement.
Both sides also said the remote meetings had reached their limit and that face-to-face meetings would be needed in order to progress.