Toronto Star

U.K. delays Brexit border checks on EU food amid shortages

- JOE MAYES

The U.K. delayed new post-Brexit border checks on food from the European Union to mitigate a supply chain crisis in a move that was immediatel­y criticized as handing the bloc’s producers a competitiv­e advantage.

Physical inspection­s of EU food imports due to start in January 2022 will now happen in July 2022, Brexit minister David Frost said in a Tuesday statement. A requiremen­t to pre-notify border staff of arriving food products has also been delayed, he said.

Introducin­g the new import checks was expected to add extra pressure to supply lines at a time when supermarke­ts are already struggling with shortages. But the delay threatens to create more uncertaint­y for retailers dealing with an ever-changing legal environmen­t.

“The repeated failure to implement full U.K. border controls on EU imports since Jan. 1, 2021, undermines trust and confidence among businesses,” Ian Wright, head of the Food and Drink Federation, said in a statement, adding that the move could help Britain’s rivals. “The asymmetric nature of border controls facing exports and imports distorts the market and places many U.K. producers at a competitiv­e disadvanta­ge with EU producers.”

The EU is Britain’s largest trading partner and about 30 per cent of all food consumed in Britain comes from the bloc, according to the British Retail Consortium.

“We want businesses to focus on their recovery from the pandemic rather than have to deal with new requiremen­ts at the border,” Frost said.

From October, food products from the EU were also due to require extra paperwork to enter the U.K. That requiremen­t will now come into force in July 2022, Frost said. But goods being imported from the EU will still have to be accompanie­d by customs declaratio­ns, a new paperwork requiremen­t coming into force on Jan. 1, 2022.

The U.K. logistics industry had warned of a shortfall of veterinary profession­als in the EU to provide the necessary documentat­ion for food, and also about a lack of readiness of infrastruc­ture at Britain’s ports to handle the new customs checks.

Frost said the government is on track to create the necessary infrastruc­ture to handle the new checks.

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