Business

EU may retain supervision of UK customs checks

LONDON: Britain will not rule out the possibility that the European Union (EU) may retain supervision of customs controls at UK borders after it leaves the bloc, as the country seeks ways to keep unhindered access to EU markets.

Last week, the UK published a policy document proposing two possible models for British-EU customs arrangements after withdrawal from the EU in 2019.

The first model was a "highly streamlined customs arrangement" that involved the re-introduction of a customs border, but envisaged electronic tracking of shipments rather than physical checks at the border.

An alternative proposal was the "new customs partnership", which would remove the need for a UK-EU customs border altogether.

Under this, the UK would operate as if it was still part of the bloc for customs purposes.

British goods would be exported tariff-free and Britain would levy EU tariffs on goods coming into the UK for onward passage to the EU directly or as components in UK export goods.

However, lawyers said there would be a need for a mechanism to oversee the "new customs partnership" to ensure that the UK was correctly monitoring goods coming into the UK and destined for Europe.

The EU's system of movement of goods across EU borders without checks works on the basis that all members closely monitor shipments coming into the bloc from outside, to ensure the correct tariffs are paid and that goods meet EU standards.

The EU anti-fraud agency Olaf polices customs agencies across Europe to ensure they are correctly monitoring imports. Olaf has the powers to conduct on-the-spot inspections and seek information from customs bodies.

If it finds weaknesses in a country's systems or that the member is not charging the appropriate duties on imports, it will recommend that the European Commissionrecover money from the offending member. - REUTERS

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