LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine)- As expected, the UK has yet again abandoned plans of imposing additional checks on goods coming into the country from the European Union.
The change implies limits on chilled meat imports from the EU and border checks on animal and plant goods will not be implemented in July.
Instead, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brexit opportunities minister, stated that by the end of 2023, a new set of border import controls will be in place.
Rees-Mogg has taken advantage of the opportunity to push import controls further down the road, saying it would be wrong to impose extra administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports when costs were already rising owing to the energy price shock and the war in Ukraine.
Instead, he explains, the government is speeding up its revolutionary mission to digitise Britain’s border. However, commodities from the EU will continue to enter the UK with minimal checks in the meantime.
In a statement to MPs, Rees-Mogg said:
This year, no new import controls on EU goods will be implemented. Businesses can now put their July preparations on hold. In the autumn, a Target Operating Model will be released that lays out the new border import control regime, with a deadline of the end of 2023.
Martin McTague, national leader of the Federation of Small Businesses, has welcomed the new delay:
Imposing complete import limits this summer would have added to the already-heavy burden placed on small businesses by new trade laws and rising operational costs.
However, the EU implemented full customs controls on January 1, 2021, meaning UK exporters have been subjected to additional trade frictions and red tape for the past 16 months. Without those laws, EU companies will continue to export goods to the United Kingdom.
Here are the adjustments that will not take effect until July:
- Additional Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) inspections on EU imports currently at destination to be shifted to the Border Control Post (BCP).
- Imports into the EU must include safety and security declarations.
- The need for EU imports, further health certification and SPS checks for imports from the EU.
- Import restrictions and prohibitions on chilled meats from the EU.
Food supplies to the UK would have been devastatingly disrupted if EU import regulations had not been delayed again, according to Shane Brennan, CEO of the Cold Chain Federation (which represents enterprises in the UK’s temperature-controlled supply chain).
This demonstrates how the UK was still unprepared to deal with the effects of Brexit at the border, resulting in today’s postponement.
Veterinary organisations have slammed the decision to postpone border inspections on EU animal and agrifood imports to the UK.
They are concerned that the current postponement could endanger public health because sanitary and phytosanitary inspections will continue to take place away from the border at points of destination, potentially allowing pests and diseases to enter the UK.
Port operators are also worried that the expenditures made on infrastructure for Brexit checks would be wasted.
The British Veterinary Association’s senior vice-president, James Russell, said the government’s decision “flies in the face” of ministers’ commitment to maintaining high levels of human and animal health in the UK at a time when diseases like African swine fever had already wreaked havoc in parts of Europe.
They urged the government to cancel these measures and end the possibility of major harm to the food and agriculture businesses, he said.
Port operators are concerned that the facilities they have erected may become “very bespoke white elephants,” according to the chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, Tim Morris. The government must engage promptly with ports to agree on a method for recovering considerable investments made in good faith, he said. Of course, they would be working closely with the government on its new goal for a streamlined and smaller border-control regime.