BREXIT is doing "untold damage" to Scotland's economy, the SNP have said, after a new report revealed the billions of pounds it is costing households and businesses.

The report from the National Audit Office - an independent body reponsible for auditing central government departments and government agencies - says that more than £4.7 billion of public money is forecast to be spent on post-Brexit border arrangements, with traders facing growing additional costs and administrative burdens as it remains unclear when full import controls will be in place. 

The UK Government has delayed the introduction of full import controls five times since the end of the Brexit transition period.

HMRC estimates that customs declarations could cost UK businesses £7.5bn every year, with 39 million declarations made in 2022 alone.

On top of that, controls introduced this year on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) goods are estimated to cost traders around £469 million once fully implemented.

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The SNP's international trade spokesperson Richard Thomson said it is a sign of why Scotland must look beyond "broken Britain" for a brighter economic future.

“Brexit is causing long-term damage to Scotland’s economy, harming trade with our biggest international trading partner and piling ever-growing costs on Scottish businesses," said Thomson.

“This is holding back our economy and businesses, who are already grappling with the consequences of woeful economic mismanagement by Westminster.

“With the Tories and Labour wedded to the long-term economic decline of Brexit and backward economic policies that hamper growth, Scotland must look beyond broken Britain to a brighter future.

“The SNP is the only party offering a route back to EU prosperity, a growing economy and flourishing Scottish businesses with independence – and we remain committed to making this a reality for the people of Scotland.”

The report details how the UK Government originally intended to introduce a full import control regime in January 2021  which would include customs and transit checks, inspections of animals, plants and their products and safety and security declarations.

Full customs controls were introduced on January 1, 2022 - with the exception of goods arriving from Ireland, where they were introduced in January 2024. 

The majority of the remaining import controls due to be introduced by the end of October.

The report states the UK has faced increased biosecurity risk as a result of the phased approach to introducing full import controls.

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It says: "Departments have assessed that biosecurity risk to the UK has increased since the end of the transition period. The UK losing access to EU surveillance and alert systems also reduces its awareness of impending threats.

"Defra told us there had not been any outbreaks of disease resulting from the phased approach, but that the lack of requirement for EHCs for goods arriving from the EU would have made it harder to track the source of an outbreak, if one had occurred."

It adds that changes in direction about the introduction of import controls and difficulties forecasting requirements have resulted in the Government spending money on infrastructure and staff that were "ultimately not needed" and have made it harder for stakeholders to plan.

For example, the Government procured or built sites at Dover White Cliffs and Dover Bastion Point at a combined cost of £62m, but subsequently decided they were not required when it adopted the new risk-based import control regime for SPS goods, which reduced the volume of goods which required checking.

HMRC also spent £258m between 2020-21 and 2023-24 on building and running eight temporary border facilities to cope with additional demand which did not fully materialise.

The report also states the Government has no clear timetable for the implementation of its strategy to achieve its ambition of having “the world’s most effective border”.

In conclusion, the report said: "More than three years after the end of the transition period, full import controls are still not in place. Although departments appear to be on course to introduce most of the remaining controls during 2024, there remains uncertainty about when full SPS controls will be in place.

"In addition, the model’s operation is still to be tested and the government may not be able to apply controls consistently as the controls are phased in.

"The government’s new border target operating model should reduce costs to traders in comparison to its initial plans. However, repeated delays in implementing controls have meant ongoing uncertainty and an increase in risk, and the government and border stakeholders have also incurred unnecessary costs.

"This could have been avoided if the government had established a clearer vision of how the border should operate from the start, and had taken a more strategic and planned approach to implementation."