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Time for final preparations for life outside EU, UK tells firms

12/01/2020 | 03:35am EST
An umbrella with EU and British flags attached to it is held ahead of a speech by Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May in Florence

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's government is urging businesses to make final preparations for a new trading relationship with the EU from Jan. 1, saying a new centre to monitor goods will help ease what it described as "short-term disruption" after Brexit.

With just a month to go before the end of the Brexit transition period, the government reminded exporters and importers that, with or without a trade deal, they must get ready for new paperwork and procedures at the border when the UK leaves the European Union's single market and customs union.

Many businesses say they are struggling to prepare because of a lack of clarity over the future relationship. The UK and the EU are still trying to seal a trade deal amid big differences on issues such as fishing and state aid.

In a statement, the government said a new Border Operations Centre would be set up to gather information on the flow of goods and people, adding: "Changes to the way we trade with Europe will likely mean that there is short-term disruption at the border."

"This (centre) will help us tackle challenges quickly and decisively, and give us increased information which will make us safer and more secure," said Michael Gove, the minister handling Britain's divorce deal.

Business minister Alok Sharma said he had written to nearly five million British companies to outline "the top actions they need to take".

The government's critics say it is putting the onus on business to take the hit from a new customs regime rather than equipping them with the tools to deal with what they fear will be chaos at the border, even if the government secures a deal.

Failure to secure a deal would mean higher prices and shortages of fresh food in supermarkets, the critics say. The Office for Budget Responsibility has said such a failure would wipe an extra 2% off the United Kingdom's economic output.]

Even with a deal, companies will have to navigate customs checks and new rules at the border after Prime Minister Boris Johnson early on ruled out staying in the EU's customs union.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Gareth Jones)

© Reuters 2020
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