Andrea Leadsom:

Andrea Leadsom urges businesses to ‘adapt’ to higher post-Brexit costs

A government minister and ardent Brexiteer has urged businesses to “adapt” to higher post-Brexit costs, with food and fresh flower imports from the European Union subjected to new customs controls from today.

Dame Andrea Leadsom, a health minister, insisted this morning that the additional checks due to not being in the EU single market have been “absolutely known about since 2016”.

The new post-Brexit customs controls are set to add more than £300 million a year to the price of trading with the continent.

Under the new red tape rules, imports of chilled and frozen meat and fish, cheese and dairy products and five common varieties of cut flowers will require an export health certificate, signed off by a European vet or plant inspector, before they can enter the UK.

From 30 April, the same categories of goods will face physical inspections at the border, raising the prospect of delays and shortages.

But, speaking to Sky News this morning, Leadsom said that since leaving the EU, the UK has been able to sign up to 70 trade deals and join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). 

She said: “So whilst we are still trading enormous amounts with the EU, we have opened up other opportunities for UK businesses, exports and imports too”.

When challenged on the government’s admission that these new post-Brexit checks are set to cost an extra £330m per year, she replied: “There are big opportunities from free trade deals.”

She added: “Businesses knew at the time of Brexit that in leaving the European single market, there would be additional checks at the border because by definition we were no longer in that single market. There was no surprise about that.”

“I understand that today it’s a big news story because it’s something that finally has come home to roost.

“But the fact of the matter remains that businesses have huge opportunities with other parts of the world, which are the direct benefit of us leaving the European Union.”

Asked what she would say to businesses set to face soaring costs, she replied: “Businesses need to adapt to meet the changing environment.”

The new rules being introduced today come four years after similar checks were imposed on UK exporters to Europe. They have already been delayed five times because of concerns about disruption and increasing costs to consumers.

The government’s own estimates say the cost of trading with Europe will increase by £330 million a yea and increase food inflation, a key driver of the cost of living crisis, by 0.2 per cent over the next three years.

The Leave-supporting Leadsom also later told Times Radio that it has been long suggested that such issues would occur as a result of post-Brexit arrangements: “It was very clear in the Brexit discussions a long time ago now, today is the fourth anniversary of leaving the EU, it was very clear that we would be leaving the single market.

“What that does mean is that there is some friction in trade. However, we also have huge trading arrangements with other countries around the world. I think (there are) 70 free trade deals that we have signed up to including being the first European signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership from where, potentially, up to half the world’s growth is going to come in the next few decades.”

She added: “So there is a huge new opportunity for the UK at the same time as continuing to trade, albeit with some friction, which is the price you pay for leaving the single market and for being a sovereign state again.

“For me as a Brexiteer, I am still absolutely convinced that this is the right thing to do.” is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.