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Highland Council's Brexit Working Group chairman raises concerns over Brexit preparations in meeting as countdown to end of transition period draws closer

By Ian Duncan

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Councillor Jimmy Gray.
Councillor Jimmy Gray.

Highland Council’s Brexit Working Group met today chairman Councillor Jimmy Grayraised concerns about the current Brexit process.

Members were discussing preparations being made by council services and he acknowledged that the authority was doing as much as it could do with the information and resources currently available.

However, with speculation rising around a deal or no deal decision, Cllr Gray expressed his frustration around the ongoing uncertainty that existed, leaving businesses with very little time to prepare for what will be significant changes.

He said: “There has been a steady drip feed of updates and changes from the UK Government about what needs to be done around exporting and importing to and from the EU.

"Whilst some processes are confirmed there is still a lot we don’t know. Even if we do get a decision there are only 39 days to go until the end of the Transition Period and this makes it very difficult for businesses to get ready. This is compounded by Covid-19 and many businesses are struggling with capacity issues.

“It is clear that preparations to manage the border at the end of the Transition Period remain very challenging and it is very unlikely that all traders, industry and third parties will be ready by December 31, 2020.

"This will have an impact on freight and supply chains and if you add the concurrent risks of Covid-19 and winter weather into the equation you can easily see the detrimental impacts this could have with local business and our wider communities.

"Given this lack of readiness and the ongoing uncertainty I would ask that the UK Government gives serious consideration to further transitional arrangements following 1 January 2021 to allow businesses adequate timing to prepare once there is a clear direction of travel.

"The UK Government has told us that we are going on a journey to a place called Brexit and have asked us to pack our bags in readiness. When asked where and what Brexit is, they have been unable to tell us but insist that we get ready for it in any case. How can we fully prepare if we don’t know where we are going, what we need to get there and how we are getting there?”

Councillor Margaret Davidson, the council leader, also raised her concerns and said: “Unlike Covid there is no vaccine for Brexit, we will certainly have to adapt and live with it.I have no confidence that all issues have been addressed so I too urge the Government to provide businesses with more information and clarity. We have the announcement on Wednesday about the shared prosperity fund and I hope there will be some substantial and good news for Highland.”

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