Brexit import controls delayed for the fourth time

The government has delayed the introduction of more controls on EU goods entering the UK because they fear it will disrupt supply chains and contribute to rising inflation.

New import controls on EU food were to begin in July.

The government said that “it would be wrong to impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption in ports” at a time of higher costs due to the war in Ukraine and rising energy prices.

This is the fourth time it has delayed EU import controls since Britain left the EU.

Brexit Opportunity Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government was in the process of reviewing how it would implement controls on EU goods and “the new control regime will enter into force at the end of 2023”.

He claimed the delay would save British companies up to £ 1bn. in annual costs.

Rees-Mogg said it would have been “a self-harming act” if the government had decided to go ahead with import controls.

He said the controls would have brought “quite significant” price increases for people at a time when the government was “trying to reduce costs.”

These would have included a “71% increase – maximum level – in the retail price” for small deliveries such as cheese.

He said: “You would have potentially added £ 500 cost to a shipment of fish fingers which then falls through to the consumer.”

Business groups welcomed the move.

“We’re dealing with significant supply chain stress and inflationary costs this year, and this would have made a bad situation much worse,” said Shane Brennan, executive director of the Cold Chain Federation.

The Federation of Small Businesses said: “The introduction of full import controls this summer would have meant another burden for small businesses, which are already struggling with new trade rules and rising operating costs.”

‘White elephants’

Ports, which have spent millions of pounds preparing for controls, however, said they had been “landed with the bill from the government’s Brexit border U-turn”.

They have built border checkpoints that would allow controls on imports of EU food and animals.

Not only have these controls been delayed, but they may not be necessary if a “light touch” regime is put in place, potentially meaning the new infrastructure will be “useless”, the British Ports Association said.

“This announcement is a major political change, which means that the facilities will actually be white elephants wasting millions of pounds of public and private funds, not to mention the enormous efforts that have been made to get things ready in time, “the association’s managing director Richard. said Ballantyne.

He said ports were looking for “clarification from policy makers whether there will be any kind of financial assistance or compensation to ports and also if operators can start bulldozing the facilities and using the sites for other purposes”.

Major Ports Group, which represents major UK ports and free ports, said they had “worked incredibly hard and invested over £ 100 million of their own money” in new border posts, which could be “highly tailored white elephants”.

Meanwhile, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the decision was “another blow to agricultural businesses already struggling with huge inflationary costs and persistent labor shortages”.

“Our manufacturers have to comply with strict controls in order to export their own products abroad, all the while being put at a continued competitive disadvantage by our EU competitors, who are still benefiting from an extended grace period giving them access to it. valued UK market relatively cost and burden free, ”said NFU President Minette Batters.

She added that controls on agricultural food imports were “absolutely critical to the country’s biosafety, animal health and food security”.

The British Veterinary Association also criticized the move, saying it “not only stands in the way of common sense but also on the government’s commitment to maintaining high levels of animal and human health in the UK”.

James Russell, the association’s senior vice president, said it had repeatedly warned that postponing veterinary checks could further “weaken vital lines of defense” against disease.

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