The European Union (EU) has demanded the UK pay them a £2.4 billion fine shortly before Brexit talks commence, claiming the government has not done enough to fight Chinese gangs smuggling goods into Britain.
Brussels bureaucrats at the EU’s anti-fraud unit, Olaf, say the UK allowed the foreign gangs to undervalue goods brought into the EU via Dover and Felixstowe, dodging billions in VAT and customs duty that should have been pocketed by Brussels.
They say the UK was notified of the fraud more than a decade ago, in 2007, but for some reason, the government did not act sufficiently and so deprived the EU of around £2.4 billion (€2.7 billion) in revenue.
British officials said they did not recognise the claims and will contest the bill in court.
The huge alleged fine comes at a convenient for the EU, and will almost also certainly be weaponised in talks to claim the UK cannot be trusted to safeguard EU borders or pay its way.
The EU has been pushing to make the UK pay a huge Brexit ‘divorce bill’, of an as yet unspecified amount, and wants the UK to create a sea border in the Irish Sea rather than trust the British government to make customs checks on a relatively open Northern Irish border.
EU Demands Access to UK Fishing Waters in Exchange for Limited Trade Deal https://t.co/xhMB4EaPEW
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 8, 2018
A government spokesman told the BBC: “We do not recognise the European Commission’s estimate of alleged duty loss.
“We take customs fraud very seriously, and we continue to evolve our response as new threats emerge. We will carefully examine the formal notice from the commission and respond in due course.
“The UK intends to continue to work closely with Olaf and the commission on customs fraud.
“HMRC has a very strong track record for tackling evasion and rule-breaking of all kinds, securing a record £28.9bn last year that would otherwise have gone unpaid.”