Government’s customs plans will create a Brexit bureaucracy bombshell for British business

Open Britain, the cross-party group campaigning against a hard Brexit, has today released a new video highlighting the times senior Brexiteers promised the public that leaving the EU would lead to a bonfire of red tape, contrasted with the growing body of evidence that the Government’s policy of leaving the Customs Union will in fact result in a “Brexit bureaucracy bombshell for British business.”

During and after the EU referendum campaign, senior Brexiteers have pledged that leaving the EU would result in less red tape for British business. In March 2017, Boris Johnson said that Brexit “will be an opportunity for this country to get rid of some of the burdensome regulation that has accreted over the last 44 years.” During the referendum campaign, he said Britain should “burst loose” of EU regulation. 

Senior Leaver Daniel Hannan said, also in March this year, that “there are some costly and burdensome regulations that serve no purpose in this country, that we can now scrap.” During the referendum, the Vote Leave campaign promised that “we will have a thriving economy if we ditch the £600m a week cost of EU red tape.”

However, it now appears that the Government’s strategy of leaving the Customs Union could lead to an increase in red tape on UK businesses. In their own position paper on the Customs Union, the Government admit that there could be “an increase in administration” compared to the status quo. They also expect companies to “self-assess” what they owe in customs duties, which would hugely increase costs for small firms in particular.

The CBI have said that “business wants to see as frictionless a customs system as possible.” The British Chambers of Commerce say they want “no delays as goods move between the UK and EU.” Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, has said that it is a “fantasy” to expect that Britain could leave the Single Market and retain invisible trading borders.

Commenting, Alex Clifford, Head of Digital at Open Britain, said:

“Leave campaigners promised us that leaving the Customs Union would lead to a bonfire of redtape. But instead, their position means we face a Brexit bureaucracy bombshell for British business. 

“Leaving the Customs Union will be a hammer blow for UK firms, especially SMEs. All of a sudden, they will face customs checks, tariffs, reams of paperwork and dozens of new bureaucratic hoops to jump through.

“British small businesspeople, workers and consumers will all be worse off as a result.

“This video is an eye-catching way of pointing out the yawning chasm that has emerged between rhetoric and reality.”


Notes to editors:

The Open Britain video can be seen here:

A full list of the quotes, tweets and articles referenced in this video is below:

Boris Johnson (video): "A stagnant European economy burdened with too much bureaucracy. It's time to burst loose of all those regulations." (video embedded at top of link)

Boris Johnson (video): "And I might add that it will be an opportunity for this country to get rid of some of the burdensome regulation that has accreted over the last 44 years." embedded in link) 

Daniel Hannan (video): "Equally there are some costly and burdensome regulations that serve no purpose in this country that we can now scrap and as a result become a more competitive place and a more attractive place to do business." (1:49-2:00)

Andrea Leadsom (video): "Too much of your time and money has been wasted on keeping up and complying with EU red tape."

Iain Duncan Smith (video): "Even though the vast majority of these businesses never trade with the EU they are subject to EU red tape at the cost of tens of billions of pounds. Those regulations don’t just mean lower profits for small entrepreneurs, they also mean fewer new businesses starting up and fewer jobs created." (6:50-7:10)

Priti Patel (video): "I am speaking about the endless rules and regulations, may of which we don't know about, politicians don't know about because they're just transported over from the European institutions." 





Financial Times: "Brexit customs plan threatens to increase obstacles to trade"

Independent: "Brexit: UK business could face 'huge new bureaucratic burdens' after leaving the EU due to new customs union plan"

Mirror: "Brexit customs union plan branded a 'fantasy' as businesses face surge in red tape"

Sky News: "The Government's custom Brexit plans will at very least involve more red tape and thus likely higher costs to cross the Irish border."

Bloomberg: "U.K. Business Faces More Red Tape Under Brexit Customs Plans"

Huffington Post: "The government has proposed a “customs partnership”, which would see the UK “mirror” EU tariffs on goods coming into Britain, involves an increase of red tape for businesses."