Brexit: Scotland should have import 'grace periods' like Northern Ireland, claims minister

The UK government should seek a “grace period” for Scotland as it prepares to relax post-Brexit border checks on EU imports in a bid to prevent “severe food shortages” in supermarkets.

Restrictions on imports and exports to and from GB and the EU are sparking concerns about food shortages.
Restrictions on imports and exports to and from GB and the EU are sparking concerns about food shortages.

Former Scottish minister for rural affairs Mairi Gougeon, also demanded that Scotland receive “immediate support and financial compensation” to deal with the impact of Brexit on Scottish trade exports.

Her comments came in the wake of a report in the Observer that new Brexit minister, Lord Frost is considering “lighter touch” controls on imports from April 1 than currently planned, and scaling back plans for full customs checks, including physical inspections, which are due to begin on July 1.

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The relaxation has reportedly been sparked by concerns the border checks on food will damage trade and could lead to severe shortages in supermarkets. Lord Frost is believed to be preparing to put the plans to Cabinet this week.

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Brexit warning signs from Northern Ireland must not be ignored – Brian Wilson

Last week Michael Gove announced that “grace periods” to allow lighter enforcement on EU rules over supermarket goods, pharmaceuticals, chilled meats and parcels from Great Britain into Northern Ireland should be extended to January 2023 rather than stop at the end of this month.

Ms Gougeon, who was recently moved to a public health brief, said: "Anything less than the UK government seeking a grace period for Scotland and delivering the immediate support and financial compensation that it requires – just like it did for Northern Ireland – will simply not be good enough.

"While Ireland has had €1.05bn from the EU's Brexit mitigation fund, Boris Johnson’s extreme Brexit, which was imposed against our will, has already cost Scotland almost £4bn and projected to cost every person the equivalent of £1,600 as a result of barriers to trade."

Under current plans, from April 1 all items of “animal origin” such as meat, honey, milk or egg products, as well as regulated plants and plant products, will require full documentation and possibly veterinary certificates to be sold in the UK. From July 1, all companies exporting to the UK will also be required to fill out full customs declarations while products could be subjected to physical checks at new customs centres.

A Downing Street source confirmed to the Observer that Lord Frost had ordered “a review of the timetable to ensure that we are not imposing unnecessary burdens on business” but that it was “early in the process and no decisions have been made”.

In the Sunday Telegraph Lord Frost also called on Brussels to "shake off any remaining ill will" towards the UK for leaving the EU as the European Commission said it would launch legal action against Whitehall as a result of the extension of the "grace periods".

The EU has accused the UK of going back on its treaty obligations in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement intended to ensure there is no return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Lord Frost said the move was lawful and designed to protect the everyday lives of people in Northern Ireland.

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