Matt Hancock, health secretary in England, said the potential disruption to imports could stem from controls that UK exports could face when being transported to the EU. He said government analysis has identified the knock-on impact delays in exports could have on the supply of goods coming into UK ports.
"The European Commission has made it clear that, in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario, it will impose full third country controls on people and goods entering the EU from the UK," Hancock said. "Whether this happens or not is in their hands, not ours. Although we cannot know exactly what each member state will do with respect to checks on the EU border, the cross-government planning assumptions have been revised so we can prepare for the potential impacts that the imposition of third country controls by member states could have."
"These impacts are likely to be felt mostly on the short straits crossings into Dover and Folkestone, where the frequent and closed loop nature of these mean that both exports and imports would be affected. The revised cross-government planning assumptions show that there will be significantly reduced access across the short straits, for up to six months," he said.
In letters to EU-based suppliers of medicines and medical devices, Hancock confirmed that, in a 'no deal' scenario, the import of medicines and medical products into the UK would take priority. He said the government would liaise with the companies on how their goods might be rerouted into the UK in those circumstances.
"The government recognises the vital importance of medicines and medical products and is working to ensure that there is sufficient roll-on, roll-off freight capacity to enable these vital products to continue to move freely in to the UK," Hancock said. "The government has also agreed that medicines and medical products will be prioritised on these alternative routes to ensure that the flow of all these products will continue unimpeded after 29 March 2019."
Hancock said that the plans being made are for a "worst-case scenario", and that the government would seek to reduce any impact of a 'no deal' Brexit on UK imports and exports.
"In a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU we would, of course, be pressing member states hard to introduce pragmatic arrangements to ensure the continued full flow of goods which would be to their benefit as well as ours," Hancock said.