Britain is set to abandon plans for full border checks with the European Union on January 1 in favour of a “flexible” approach.
According to The Financial Times, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has accepted that businesses will be unable to cope with both the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit-related disruption at the border once the UK’s transition period with the bloc comes to an end.
The government had previously said that goods coming in from the EU would face the same customs checks as those from other countries.
The new arrangements will reportedly be in place for six months, with only controlled goods expected to face immediate checks.
The FT reports that both industrial and agricultural goods will benefit from a looser checks regime, while the Treasury will allow VAT payments to be deferred for months after goods have been landed.
A government source said: "We recognise the impact that coronavirus has had on UK businesses, and as we take back control of our laws and our borders at the end of this year, we will take a pragmatic and flexible approach to help business adjust to the changes and opportunities of being outside the single market and the customs union."
The shift came as Number 10 confirmed that a high-level meeting between Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will take place on June 15, as the two sides continue to try to thrash out a post-Brexit future relationship.
A UK spokesperson said: “The UK and the EU have agreed an intensified timetable for FTA [free trade agreement] negotiations in July.
“This new process will involve a mix of formal negotiating rounds and smaller group meetings, both in London and Brussels, assuming public health guidelines enable this.
“There will be talks each week of the 5 weeks between week commencing 29 June and week commencing 27 July.
“The high level meeting between the prime minister and president von der Leyen, president [of the European Council Charles] Michel and president [of the European Parliament David] Sassoli will take place by video conference on the afternoon of Monday 15 June.”