Posted: Wed 30th Aug 2023
The government has confirmed that the introduction of new rules imposing extra checks on chilled and fresh food being imported into the UK from the European Union has been postponed for the fifth time.
Post-Brexit checks have been in force on chilled and fresh food exported from the UK to the EU since January 2021 with businesses needing to go through sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks.
Similar rules for produce being transported from the EU to the UK have previously been delayed four times - once in 2020, twice in 2021 and again in 2022.
In April this year, the government said they would be phased in from 31 October 2023, with further changes next year.
But as the Financial Times previously reported, the government has today confirmed that the rules won't start to come into force until 31 January 2024.
Publishing its new 'Border Target Operating Model for trade in goods', the Cabinet Office said the new timetable is as follows:
31 January 2024: The introduction of health certification on imports of medium risk animal products, plants, plant products and high risk food (and feed) of non-animal origin from the EU.
30 April 2024: The introduction of documentary and risk-based identity and physical checks on medium risk animal products, plants, plant products and high risk food (and feed) of non-animal origin from the EU. Imports of sanitary and phytosanitary goods from the rest of the world will begin to benefit from the new risk based model.
31 October 2024: Safety and security declarations for EU imports will come into force from 31 October 2024. Alongside this, we will introduce a reduced dataset for imports.
The government said the delay to the rules is after it "listened to the views of industry" and "to give stakeholders additional time to prepare for the new checks".
Cabinet Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said:
"Our Border Target Operating Model will ensure more efficient trading for businesses, protect against biosecurity threats and further crack down on illegal imports such as firearms and drugs.
"By making maximum use of data and new technologies, our innovative yet risk-based approach is key to delivering a world-class border system.
"Once fully implemented, these important post-Brexit measures will, I believe, bring considerable benefits to the UK economy and to UK trade, and the government stands ready to support businesses through this transition."
The announcement also confirmed that new checks and controls will be introduced for Irish goods moving from Ireland directly to Great Britain.
Under the agreement between the UK and the EU in the Windsor Framework, Northern Ireland businesses will retain "unfettered access" to Great Britain, whether moving qualifying Northern Ireland goods directly from Northern Ireland or indirectly through Irish ports.
Commenting on the announcement, Marco Forgione, director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade, said:
“The Border Target Operating Model should not be looked at in isolation. There are several other key initiatives taking place as part of the Border 2025 strategy aimed at making the UK border one of the most effective and efficient.
"This approach has the potential to convert our borders into engines which support economic growth. In addition we encourage government to move as fast as possible to implement the findings of the customs initiatives announced at the Spring Budget.
"What's really important is that UK businesses and those trading into UK markets prepare for these changes. The Border Target Operating Model helps to redress some of the commercial disadvantages that UK businesses have been facing."
Some UK producers have complained that the delay to the rules for EU businesses gives them a commercial advantage because they don't have to deal with extra checks.
Today's announcement follows the postponement of other international trade changes.
Last week, the government delayed the deadline for most businesses to start using a new system for managing exports, and earlier this month, it said that the UK will continue to use the European Union's CE product safety mark with an indefinite delay to the introduction of its planned post-Brexit UKCA replacement.