The UK has delayed, for a fifth time, the first stage of post-Brexit border checks on fresh produce heading into Britain from Europe.
After successive postponements, the introduction of the controls will be implemented from January 2024, three months later than recently touted.
Government sources say the move should give concerned businesses more time to adapt to the changes, but some traders still say they feel pushed.
Commentators in the British press, meanwhile, argue that the delay has come about due to fears of the impact food price inflation may have on the UK population during an already stressed cost of living crisis. Others have gone a step further to accuse the UK of being “unable to cope with the consequences of Brexit”, calling the latest announcement yet another case of “foot-dragging” by the British government.
New rules in a post-Brexit Britain
The revised timeline for the introduction of checks is now: 31st January 2024 for imports of medium-risk animal products, plants and plants products, and high-risk non-animal origin food and feed from the EU will require health certification; 30th April 2024 for documentary, identity and physical checks of the previously mentioned products, and the introduction of a new “risk-based” approach for imports of sanitary and phytosanitary goods from other parts of the world; and 31st October 2024 is when mandatory safety and security declarations for EU imports will be required.
Under the new rules, all consignments of goods eligible for the sanitary and phytosanitary introduced in the second phase will be required to pay a “common user charge” for between £20 and £43 regardless of whether they have been selected for inspection or not. The confirmed amount is yet to be revealed, adding extra pressures to an already tense relationship between EU exporters and post-Brexit Britain.
“The critical thing is preparedness,” the head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, William Bain, is quoted as saying in The Guardian. “Businesses are making investment and supply chain decisions for the long term and need to be confident that the physical and digital infrastructure around the GB border is going to be in place on time.”
British exporters, meanwhile, are keen for the system to come into force in the name of fairness.
According to statements made to Sky News by Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers Union in the UK, “[UK] farmers have faced the full reach of EU controls on our exports while the EU has enjoyed continued easy access to the UK marketplace [for three years].”
The EU has operated checks on British goods heading onto the continent since January 2021.
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