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Brexit Import Checks Delayed Once Again

Brexit Import Checks Delayed Once Again
Source: Small Business

More inspections on EU products entering the UK have been postponed by the government due to concerns that they may disrupt supply chains and add to increasing inflation.

In July, new import limitations on EU food items were supposed to go into effect.

“It would be irresponsible to impose extra administrative hurdles and risk interruption at ports,” the government warned, at a time when expenses are growing due to the Ukraine conflict and rising oil prices.

Since the UK left the EU, it has postponed EU import inspections four times.

The government is considering how it would enforce checks on EU products, according to Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, and “the new controls regime will come into place by the end of 2023.”

He claimed that the postponement will save British firms up to £1 billion each year.

If the government had opted to go forward with the import limits, Mr Rees-Mogg said it would have been “an act of self-harm.”

He said that the checks would have resulted in “substantial” price hikes for citizens at a time when the government was “trying to save expenditures.”

A “71 percent rise – maximum level – in the retail price” of modest delivery like cheese would have been one of them.

“You would have been adding perhaps £500 of costs to a shipment of fish fingers, which would then be passed on to the customer,” he added.

Business organizations applauded the decision.

“This year, we’re dealing with severe supply chain stress and inflationary expenses, and this would have exacerbated an already difficult position,” said Shane Brennan, CEO of the Cold Chain Federation.

“Imposing full import controls this summer would have meant yet another burden for small businesses already grappling with new trade laws and spiraling operational expenses,” the Federation of Small Businesses stated.

Ports, on the other hand, said they had been “landed with the bill of the government’s Brexit border U-turn,” despite having spent millions of pounds preparing for the inspections.

They’ve begun constructing border checkpoints to enable for checks on EU food and animal imports.

However, such inspections have not only been postponed, but may not be required if a “light touch” policy is implemented, possibly rendering the new infrastructure “useless,” according to the British Ports Association.

“This announcement is a significant policy shift, implying that the facilities will effectively become white elephants, wasting millions of pounds in public and private funding, not to mention the enormous effort put in to get things ready on time,” said the association’s chief executive Richard Ballantyne.

“Clarification from policymakers if there will be any form of financial help or compensation for ports, as well as if operators may start bulldozing the facilities and using the sites for other reasons,” he added.

The Main Ports Group, which represents the country’s major ports and freeports, claimed they had been “worked tremendously hard and have invested over £100 million of their own money” in new border posts that might be “highly customised white elephants.”

Meanwhile, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) described the decision as “another blow to agricultural enterprises already grappling with massive inflationary prices and persistent labor shortages.”

“Our producers must meet stringent controls to export their own products abroad,” NFU president Minette Batters said, “all while remaining at a competitive disadvantage to our EU competitors, who continue to benefit from an extended grace period that allows them to access the prized UK market relatively cost and burden free.”

She went on to say that agricultural food import controls were “extremely vital” to the country’s biosecurity, animal health, and food safety.

The action was also criticized by the British Veterinary Association, which said it “flies in the face not just of common sense, but also of the government’s commitment to maintaining high standards of animal and human health in the UK.”

The group’s senior vice president, James Russell, said the association has previously warned that further postponing veterinary inspections “may undermine important lines of defense” against illnesses.