The European Commission sent a stark warning to the UK government on Monday (24 September), after it was revealed that Britain has outstanding customs duty contributions to the EU budget worth €2.7 billion.
EU budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger will send a reasoned opinion to the UK after an initial warning was delivered in March, following a report by the EU’s anti-fraud body, OLAF.
Research showed that importers in the UK evaded duties by using “fictitious and false invoices” and incorrect customs value declarations at points of importation.
The undervaluation fraud operation is said to have taken place across British ports between 2011 and 2017. The UK has failed to take effective measures to prevent the fraud, and as such will now get a second warning from the Commission.
The UK has two months to act in response to the claims and, if it does not, it faces an escalation of the case to the EU Court of Justice.
According to a report by Reuters, the UK has said that it does not accept liability for the alleged budget gap and does not recognise the estimated figure of €2.7 billion proposed by the Commission.
Oettinger’s actions on Monday come amid a fierce domestic struggle in the UK over Prime Minister May’s proposed Brexit plans.
Britain’s main opposition Labour party will vote at its annual conference on Tuesday, gauging support among member’s for the potential of backing a second Brexit referendum.
It is widely believed that May’s Chequers plan would not receive the support it requires in parliament to be approved.
The BBC reported on Monday that May is set to chair a cabinet meeting in order to iron out differences between ministers.
A number of high-profile members of parliament have recently encouraged her to drop the Chequers proposal in light of widespread disapproval on the continent.
The Commission stated that today’s warning to the UK was postponed in order to avoid the Brexit discussions at an EU summit in Austria last week.