Border blues and further frustrations


07 August 2023
UK set to delay post-Brexit border food checks amid inflation worries.

THE UK is set to again delay implementing post-Brexit border checks for EU imports, spelling frustration for many potato growers and suppliers and fuelling concerns that the new regime will further stoke inflation.

Britain was planning to roll out the first stage of the new border model from October, with further stages implemented throughout 2024 that would see more checks on food and animal products entering the country. Government officials say the delay is intended to give companies and port operators yet more time to implement the arrangements.

It is the fifth time that post-Brexit border checks for EU imports have been delayed. A new timetable has not yet been signed off by ministers, but the start of the new regime is expected to slip into next year.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Nick von Westenholz, Director of Trade at the National Farmers Union, said he acknowledged that the Government needed to protect consumers from price rises, but said that yet another delay would exasperate many growers, who face barriers for their exports which are not being reciprocated on imports from the EU.

“We need proportionate, light-touch checks in place that can both keep costs for importers to a minimum while properly managing biosecurity risks,” he said. “Government must quickly set out a clear and concrete timetable for the new import regime, so we have a level playing field for UK growers and producers.”

Andrew Thurston, Customs Duty & Indirect Tax Consultant at accountancy group MHA, says inflation has led to the government’s latest border check postponement, but frustration among businesses will be growing with each delay.

“Another post-Brexit border check delay will be no surprise. The government is reluctant to place additional costs on businesses and risk pushing inflation higher. The most likely scenario is that border checks will be delayed by three to six months," he told Potato Review.

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“Those businesses that invested time and money to prepare for the checks, only to see them delayed again, will be frustrated. We should be encouraging firms to think ahead but those who did repeatedly see their good efforts go to waste. While unlikely, there will be businesses who would welcome some form of compensation, particularly as this is the fifth delay to border checks.

“It is very important to understand that the risk for businesses from these checks (when they finally arrive) is not so much additional cost but administrative pitfalls.

“For example, exporters could see costs of around £200-£250 per consignment once checks are implemented. Yet the addition of any new certification increases the likelihood of errors and delays. Especially if you deal in fresh produce, getting held up at a port can spell trouble for the whole consignment, potentially ruining it.

“Smaller businesses with a high exposure to the EU will need to make sure that their certification is up to date regularly.”

Sources: Financial Times, Politico and MHA


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