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UK not ready for the end of the transition period

10 December 2020

The EU Goods Sub-Committee, chaired by Baroness Verma, writes to Michael Gove on post-transition preparedness, including customs sector and IT systems preparedness, preparations of port and Channel Tunnel operators, and traffic management preparations.


In November 2020 the Committee held five evidence sessions on preparedness for the end of transition, and the arrangements for the import and export of goods after the transition period.

The letter presents to the Government the key findings of the inquiries and makes a series of recommendations. With less than a month before the end of the transition period, the Committee urges the Government to give these urgent consideration.

Key findings

  • Crucial IT systems to deal with customs declarations and accessing Kent are still in testing and may not be ready for the end of transition.
  • Small businesses will struggle to access these IT systems, or the services of the customs intermediary sector which appears to be under-resourced.
  • The traffic management plan is vulnerable to closures, and the plan to split traffic well before drivers would normally make the decision on which route to take.
  • Facilities for drivers are inadequate and will have serious welfare, safety and legal implications for those stuck in what may be delayed queues. Comfort breaks and sustenance have not been adequately considered or provided for.
  • Animal welfare issues may arise for vehicles carrying livestock if they are stuck in queues for a long time.
  • There is widespread uncertainty and the guidance provided by the Government has been complicated and unclear.

Chair's comments

Baroness Verma, Chair of the EU Goods Sub-Committee, commented:

“Our Committee is very sceptical that the necessary physical customs infrastructure, both at ports and inland, will be ready. The Government has not prepared enough for the realities of moving goods across the Channel. It has been too optimistic and this has been reflected in weak and undeveloped contingency plans at every level.

“How aware businesses are of what they need to do to prepare for post-transition is the great unknown. This lack of awareness worries us because the smooth movement of goods requires every vehicle to have completed the necessary customs checks in advance.

“The welfare and safety of drivers, which must be top priority, has simply not been properly thought through. Has the Government actually considered how and where drivers, who may be stuck in long queues, will answer the call of nature, or take their legally required breaks?

“Disruption following the end of transition will threaten jobs and the flow of essential goods into the UK. The Government must get a grip of the situation and take the swift actions our letter recommends in order to mitigate disruption.”

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