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Trading standards chiefs warn of rise in checks post Brexit

Trading standards chiefs have warned that Brexit could see a huge increase in the number of checks they are forced to make at Kent’s ports.

Kent County Council says that if no alternative trading arrangements are in place by March next year, vehicle checks could rise from just two a month to around two a day - a staggering increase from 24 a year to 730 a year.

A report says there is no extra money to deal with the increased burden on an already stretched service.

Port of Dover, Eastern Docks side. Stock picture
Port of Dover, Eastern Docks side. Stock picture

Trading standards officials are responsible for checking vehicles as part of their job of consumer protection and stopping fake or dangerous goods coming into the country.

Last year they seized £10m of counterfeit goods and dealt with 27 separate imports at Dover and Eurotunnel, consisting of over 61,000 individual products, worth over £500,000.

Where checks are made, it typically involves impounding containers and exhaustive checks that last a day.

Steve Rock, who heads KCC’s 40-strong trading standards team, told a cross-party committee of county councillors:

“We are the market surveillance authority for both the EU and the UK. We are there to check products coming in to make sure they are safe.

"We are also involved in [stopping] counterfeit goods coming in through the ports.

"Whatever happens as a result of Brexit it looks like there will not be the freedom of movement of goods and the impact of that will be more inspections - and the impact of that will be fairly significant.”

“It is not just us with a torch having a quick look in the back of trucks. This involves taking everything off the truck and going through individual boxes. To check one truck probably takes us about a day and the impact on the port is fairly significant.”

KCC Trading Standards
KCC Trading Standards

He said the council was in discussions with the government about maintaining similar arrangements to those in place now.

The costs of more checks could have a significant impact on the budget as the process could involve going to court either to prosecute or get an order to allow the destruction of goods.

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke said the possibility of more checks underlined the importance of ensuring systems were in place to deal with what could happen after the UK left the EU.

“This underlines yet again the urgent need to invest, professionalise and streamline government activities at the border.”

"Whatever happens as a result of Brexit it looks like there will not be the freedom of movement of goods and the impact of that will be more inspections" - Steve Rock

“Currently there are 38 organisations and 57 different systems operating at the border. There should be a single department with a co-ordinated approach – ensuring free-flowing trade, boosting security and countering illegal immigration.”

“Singapore has done this and is now a world leader in border management. Leaving the EU provides a great opportunity to develop a much more sensible approach to checks at the port.”

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