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Delay to import checks ‘sensible’ say businesses

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Checks on imports from the EU will be delayed

Further checks on EU goods entering the UK have been delayed over concern that they would disrupt supply chains at a time of international tension and rising prices.

New import measures will not be introduced until the end of 2023 rather than in July, September and November this year as planned, but goods moving out of the UK to the EU will continue to be checked once they cross the Channel.

The delay to import controls will affect goods such as chilled meats, plant and animal products. It is the fourth time the UK government has delayed the process since the UK left the EU.

Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said it would be “wrong to impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports”.

In a statement to MPs, he said: “When the UK left the European Union, we regained the right to manage our own borders in a way that works for Britain. This includes how we manage imports into our country from overseas.

“British businesses and people going about their daily lives are being hit by rising costs caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine and in energy prices.

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“It would therefore be wrong to impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports and to supply chains at this point. The remaining import controls on EU goods will no longer be introduced this year – saving British businesses up to £1 billion in annual costs.”

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary, accused the government of delaying the implementation of post-Brexit border checks “on many occasions, leaving businesses stuck in limbo.”

He said: “Moving towards the use of smarter technology at the border will help but ministers have had years to prepare for this and their decision-making is still chaotic and confused as they stumble from one announcement to another. Businesses need certainty for them to be able to deal with supply chains and to export.”

But William Bain, head of trade policy at the BCC, said: “Given current economic circumstances it’s sensible to postpone the implementation of import food checks.

“Our research has painted a clear picture that customs checks on goods and increased paperwork have damaged our exports to the EU, particularly from smaller businesses.  

“With food prices rising, the extra costs from new checks on meat, fish, dairy and other products would fuel inflation – hitting the pockets of both business and the British public. 

“We look forward to engaging with the Government consultation on new border processes. In due course, we want to see all food checks and associated paperwork between Europe and Great Britain scrapped – through a negotiated agreement on rules for trade in animal and plant products.  

“That would be the best way to cut costs for our exporters and boost trade to the EU which has remained stubbornly flat over the last nine months.”  

The Federation of Small Businesses said: “Imposition of full import controls this summer would have meant yet another burden for small firms which are already wrestling with new trade rules and spiralling operating costs.”

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