Disruption to goods supply chains is widely expected after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020. Even businesses which are well prepared for new border processes could be caught up in delays. In this briefing, we look at how credible those predictions are, how bad the disruption could be and what you can do to prepare.
The basic problem
Since the EU removed customs formalities at its internal borders in 1993, traffic passing through the port of Dover has doubled to two million HGVs per year (if other Channel ports are included the total would be higher). At the end of the Brexit transition period, much of the red tape removed in 1993 will effectively be put back into the system. For example, if an HGV does not have the correct paperwork, it cannot be cleared to enter the UK or the EU (as the case may be) and will either have to wait until the problem can be corrected or be turned back. Many independent commentators predict that this will result in disruption to supply chains – and the UK Government's own "reasonable worst case scenario" suggests that such delays could lead to queues of up to 7000 HGVs building up at Channel ports.
New customs checks and poor trader readiness mean that delays at the GB–EU border are inevitable in January.
Institute for Government, "Preparing for Brexit: how ready is the UK?" (November 2020)