Ports in the UK have warned they are unlikely to be ready for the implementation of new customs checks on goods entering the country from the EU by the deadline of July 1st.
This is when a six-month grace period on the introduction of new import controls expires. After this date, more than 30 border control posts - both at ports and other inland facilities - will be required to inspect goods to ensure they comply with new trading rules.
However, with less than four months to go, construction on the necessary facilities has only just begun at many entry points, the Guardian reports. Meanwhile, the location of some of the proposed inland checkpoints have not even been announced.
Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the trade body British Ports Association (BPA), said: "It's obvious not all of the facilities are going to be ready; how much of it will be is still up for debate."
He also warned it is concerning that the government has yet to offer any details for a 'plan B' should facilities not be ready to conduct the new customs checks.
Mr Ballantyne said: "Even if they aren’t willing to extend beyond July, or publicly say that, they must have alternative plans, and ministers and officials are being told this on a weekly basis." He therefore called on the government to share such discussions with the industry.
One option would be to continue with the current system, where customs checks are carried out at the goods' destination. However, the Guardian noted this is not seen as a permanent solution as it could leave the UK's borders open to fraud and smuggling.
Mr Ballantyne also warned against any solution that would see goods only checked at ports where facilities have been completed, as this could create a two-tier system that may distort the flow of imports into the country.
"It would be unfair from a competition point of view. Hauliers and freight owners would seek the path of least resistance and use those routes," he stated, which could lead to overcrowding and delays at ports that do have completed customs posts.