The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has renewed calls for the European Commission and the UK government to guarantee the free movement of goods after the UK leaves the European Union.
The news comes after the UK government’s proposal for a “frictionless” custom trade agreement was this week dismissed and labeled as “fantasy” by Guy Verhofstadt, the EU parliament‘s Brexit leader.
In response, BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said a deal that ensures “strong co-operation” between the UK and EU on customs policy was “crucial” in order to maintain the flow of goods between the UK and key European markets.
“This is crucial to avoid additional customs requirements, notably on rules of origin and new declarations, which would pose the most significant barrier to the free flow of goods”, she said.
“We will also need a deal on Mutual Recognition Agreements to effectively minimise red tape on goods movements between the UK and the EU post-Brexit.
“However, a customs union in itself won‘t solve the problem of delays at ports. To ensure supply chains are not disrupted and goods can continue to move between markets as efficiently as possible, a suite of accompanying deals between the UK and EU are required on security, haulage, transit, drivers and VAT.
“On VAT specifically, we note that the Commission has recognised the need for a supplementary agreement, which is essential given that any new demand for upfront payments of import VAT could cause major cash flow headaches and additional red tape for firms.
“So we encourage the Commission and the UK Government to reach agreement as soon as possible to ensure the fewest barriers as possible to the free flow of goods in the years after 2019.”
Last week, the BRC published a Customs Roadmap to set out the practical challenges and considerations that the UK Government faces in delivering as frictionless trade as possible for consumers on Brexit day and thereafter.