duty fraud alcohol

Customs will be brought to a standstill and key ports will become lorry parks if the government fails to achieve frictionless borders after Brexit, it was warned today.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said the UK faced “delays and gridlock” and risked the resurgence of alcohol smugglers.

It said with the majority of wine imported by boat and on average Dover alone handling 290 lorries per hour (or one every 12.4 seconds), the imposition of extra customs checks would case chaos.

Goods from the EU are currently free to be moved on with no extra checks, safeguarded by EU standards and the terms of the single market.

But when the UK leaves the customs union, it would see more than double the volume of cargo that could be subject to inspection at British ports.

“We all want to avoid a cliff-edge situation and urge government to take industry advice on how to avoid a trade dead-stop and ensure the rapid transit of goods,” said WSTA chief executive Miles Beale.

“There must be clear and workable mechanisms in place to allow cross-border trade of wine and spirits from the moment we leave the EU. Anything else will result in huge delays at the ports, leading to backlogs and gridlock.”

WSTA Customs expert David Richardson added: “If we find ourselves in the nightmare scenario of UK ports shutting down as lorries are held in stacking chaos then goods will not be getting to market. This will inevitably lead to bootlegging.”

The calls were backed by Labour MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter.

He said: “The government needs to be doing more to address the concerns of the industries like wine importers who rely on the smooth flow of trade with the EU.

“Without frictionless trade we could see industry grinding to a halt and some of the 270,000 people employed by the UK wine industry could find themselves out of a job.”