Trade rules

Ministers say EU border checks ‘scaled back’

Marco Forgione: some firms will stop

Inspections on animal and plant products coming from Europe will be introduced at UK ports from today as part of the Brexit deal.

The long-delayed regime will mirror checks brought in by the EU when the UK left the single market in January 2021. They make up the second stage of the government’s Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) plan.

Trade and consumer groups say the checks will cause delays and could force up prices on supermarket shelves. Some businesses claim they will face potentially catastrophic additional costs, but the government says that it has listened to concerns and amended the checks.

Marco Forgione, director general of The Institute of Export and International Trade, said the new system would eventually help the UK to have a “world-leading” border but for some small businesses in the EU the costing regime and uncertainty “is not worth the margin that they make on the goods. So they’re just going to stop,” he said.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s Shadow Minister Without Portfolio (Cabinet Office),  said: “Ministers’ lack of planning is threatening serious disruption at our ports, meaning produce may not get to the shelves and further driving up Conservative food inflation. “

However, the government said it has scaled back the level of checks with inspections now focused on the highest-risk products.

A government spokesperson said: “We are supporting businesses as they adapt to new border checks while maintaining the smooth flow of imported goods.

“Our engagement with businesses in advance of these checks has been extensive and we are working closely with the food and horticultural sectors.

“These new controls are being introduced progressively to protect the UK from potentially harmful pests and diseases.

“We are confident we have sufficient capacity and capability across all points of entry to handle the volume and type of expected checks, while inspectors have undertaken extensive training to ensure goods are treated safely and with care.”

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