LONDON — It was something politicians spent an age debating, diplomats devoted years to negotiating and officials spent a fortune preparing for.
But on Thursday Britain made the embarrassing admission that it is still not fully ready for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s biggest political project, Brexit.
Almost five years after Britons voted to leave the European Union, the government said it would wave through some goods arriving at British ports from the continent until January 2022 — a tacit admission that it lacks the capacity to perform the border checks required by Brexit.
The latest postponement to the Brexit process came as a relief to British businesses because it averts the risk of supermarkets running out of fresh produce, or car factories missing out on parts supplies.
according to a survey by Make UK, an organization representing manufacturers. Half said administrative and other costs associated with shipping had risen.
With tensions growing over trade, vaccine supplies and other issues, relations between London and Brussels have deteriorated into a state of semi-permanent friction.
In a statement, the British government said it was changing plans at the ports in response to complaints from businesses that had faced severe challenges during the pandemic.
“As a sovereign trading nation outside the E.U., we have freedom to take decisions in our national interest — and in the interest of our businesses,” said David Frost, who negotiated the Brexit trade deal with the European Union for Britain and is now a cabinet minister responsible for implementing it.