The United Kingdom has again pushed back border control checks for some food products imported from the European Union.
The UK government cited the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses and supply chains for the decision.
New post-Brexit requirements on importing products of animal origin were due to be introduced beginning next month with controls now planned to be phased in during 2022. The EU imposed requirements on British food exports to the region beginning in January 2021.
Revised key dates
Requirements for pre-notification of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) goods, which were scheduled to be introduced in October, are now planned for January 2022 while those for export health certificates will start beginning in July 2022.
Phytosanitary certificates and physical checks on SPS goods at border control posts, originally set to go live on Jan. 1, 2022, have been pushed back until July 1, 2022.
Safety and security declarations on imports will be required beginning in July 2022 as opposed to January 2022. Full customs declarations and controls will be introduced in January 2022.
David Frost, Brexit minister, said the government has listened to calls to give industry more time to adjust.
“We want businesses to focus on their recovery from the pandemic rather than have to deal with new requirements at the border, which is why we’ve set out a pragmatic new timetable for introducing full border controls. The government remains on track to deliver the new systems, infrastructure and resourcing required,” he said.
Introduction of import controls had already been revised, with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) previously saying any further delays will present “challenges.”
Earlier this year, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee criticized the fact that controls on EU seafood and meat imports had been delayed.
Criticism of delay
Minette Batters, National Farmers Union president, said since implementation of the EU’s border controls in January, UK agri-food exporters to the bloc have lost more than £1.8 billion ($2.49 billion).
“While further delays to controls on imported EU products may go some way to keep supermarket shelves stocked at a challenging time for the UK supply chain, the current production and supply issues are largely due to workforce availability. A delay to controls on EU imported products will do little to address supply chain problems, nor the long-term trade frictions farmers are experiencing,” she said.
Zoe Davies, National Pig Association chief executive, described the move as yet another kick in the teeth for the pig industry.
“It means that while pork exports to Europe have been more costly and burdensome since the start of this year, resulting in a big reduction in volumes shipped, EU imports will be free to enter the UK unchecked and unburdened until July 2022, that is, if the government is ready then. This is handing a massive advantage to our EU competitors at a time when lots of very cheap pork is available in Europe and our industry needs all the help it can get in the midst of the biggest crisis we have faced in two decades,” she said.
Sarah Laouadi, head of international policy at Logistics UK, said members have already worked toward two deadlines, and delays put more pressure on the sector.
“However, this second change of plan for import controls will add to the uncertainty and creates extra re-adjustment costs for the logistics industry. While there is relief in some quarters at the provision of additional time to prepare for new border processes, another deferment will cause instability for businesses already stretched by the impact of COVID-19,” she said.
“It also penalizes those companies that invested time and money to progress their readiness journey as much as possible; these businesses now need the government to confirm the last details about border facilities and systems to be able to complete the crucial last mile of their journey.”
How more time can help
Sean McGuire, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Europe director, said the extra time needs to deliver progress on key issues.
“That includes both sides giving fresh consideration to business’ suggestion for a bespoke veterinary agreement, which could avoid the majority of checks and reflect the unique nature of trade between the UK and the EU. And where supply bottlenecks are caused by labor shortages, the UK should use the immigration levers within its gift to alleviate short-term pressures.”
Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association, said industry was busy preparing infrastructure to be ready in time for the previous deadline.
“The potential impact of the new cross border controls is now becoming very real indeed. Additional time and costs on goods arriving from Europe next year will definitely have an economic impact but both industry and government are working hard to mitigate any major effects and to continue to keep the country supplied,” he said.
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