The government has announced a delay in the introduction of post-Brexit controls on food and fresh produce coming from the EU.
The new border model will start operating in January 2024, instead of the original plan to introduce controls this October.
The first stage of the Border Target Operating Model will see new requirements take effect, including health certificates for certain animal and plant products, as well as high-risk food products.
The UK has been phasing in border controls for goods imported from the EU over 2021 and 2002, following Britain’s departure from the bloc. All imported goods from the EU now have to be declared at customs.
The remaining controls include health certification and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks on agri-food products, physical SPS checks on EU imports, and safety and security declarations.
Products of animal origin, plant products, and live animals will be categorised as either high medium or low risk. Appropriate controls will then be placed on these goods.
The new system of checks will be implemented in three stages next year—in January, April, and October.
In comparison, the EU introduced full customs controls on goods coming from the UK back in January 2021.
When the Border Target Operating Model was postponed back in April 2022, Jacob Rees-Mogg, serving as minister for Brexit opportunities, said that the new rules would cost British households, already burdened by rising energy prices.
Mr. Rees Mogg said that a delay would save British businesses up to £1 billion in annual costs.
The government has been in talks with businesses and the border industry, who said the new model could add complexity and cost to the supply chain.
Food importers said that the introduction of controls on medium-risk goods will likely compound food inflation.
In response to this feedback, Whitehall said it would push back on introducing new controls in order to give businesses more time to prepare.
The government assured that introduction of new checks will not significantly affect the costs of food and drink, representing less than a 0.2 percent increase in total over 3 years.
Downing Street said it has been “mindful of the impact of inflation” but added there won’t be any more delays.
The government introduced “a sufficient time to enable businesses and those affected to plan,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.
None of the additional checks and controls, outside of the existing Windsor Framework, will apply to imports into Northern Ireland from the EU, providing Northern Ireland traders with full access to the EU market.
Single Trade Window
The new approach to controls will include the UK Single Trade Window, a single data portal into which traders and intermediaries can submit data to the government.
Traders won’t need to submit the same data to different border authorities or agencies, via multiple digital portals.
Head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, William Bain, said that businesses will be pleased with the government’s “clarity” as they prepare for the shift to a digital trading system.
“The focus must now be on delivering the Single Trade Window to the timescales set out,” Mr. Bain said, adding that preparedness was “critical” for businesses.
The post-Brexit controls will benefit the UK economy and will deliver “a world-class border system,” said Cabinet Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe. The new border model will protect against “biosecurity threats” and will further “crack down on illegal imports such as firearms and drugs,” she said.
Director of the Confederation of British Industry, Sean McGuire said his organisation which represents 190,000 businesses in the UK is committed to ensuring business preparedness and minimal disruption as the new model gets implemented.
The government has urged businesses to start preparing for all three stages of the Border Target Operating Model.