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