Post-Brexit import checks on food delayed again


Stock image of butcher assessing meatImage source, Getty Images

By Vishala Sri-Pathma & Faisal Islam

BBC News

Post-Brexit checks on fresh farm produce coming to the UK from the EU have been delayed again, the BBC understands.

New import controls on EU food products had been due to begin in October.

There is concern that the extra checks on imported goods will push up prices and fuel inflation.

The delay, which was first reported by the Financial Times, will give companies and port operators more time to prepare for these changes.

UK food producers have argued that it gives a free pass to continental rivals, while all fresh food exports from the UK to the European Union face checks.

Health certification on imports of “medium-risk” products were due to start in October with physical checks beginning in January 2024.

However, the Cold Chain Federation welcomed news of the delay.

“UK food retailers, hospitality businesses and consumers were in line for major disruption because many EU food-producing businesses supplying into the UK are not ready for the new requirements,” said Shane Brennan, the chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation.

Prioritising the economy

Industry sources have told the BBC that many will be sceptical of the changes coming in at all before the next general election, which is expected in 2024.

The Labour Party has said it will negotiate a veterinary agreement with the EU that could greatly reduce the need for such procedures, if it is elected into government.

The delays to new import controls on food come at a time when the Bank of England is battling to control high inflation.

Industry sources have said the delay is viewed as a sign that the government is prioritising the economy over issues around Brexit and border controls.

On Tuesday, the government dropped plans for a rival to the “CE” quality mark over concerns that it would introduce more red tape for businesses.

The “CE” quality mark is an EU regulatory stamp of approval on products, signifying it has has passed checks like health and safety.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told broadcaster LBC on Wednesday that inflation was not falling “as fast” as he would like.

Nick von Westenholz, director of trade at the National Farmers Union, said any further delay would exasperate many farmers, who face barriers for their exports which are not put on imports from overseas.

He said: “We appreciate the need to protect consumers from rising food prices, but it is vital that we introduce proportionate, light-touch checks on all our food imports that keep costs for importers to a minimum while properly managing biosecurity risks.”

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