UK – The UK Government has announced a revised timetable for the introduction of border controls and checks for goods arriving from the European Union (EU), just two weeks ahead of the expected introduction of new rules for imports owing to Covid disruption and pressure on global supply chains.
Under the “original” timeline which had earlier been revised in March 2021, firms importing products of animal origin and certain animal by-products ,including meat and dairy products, would have been required to obtain export health certificates from 1 October 2021.
The new requirements for Export Health Certificates (EHC) will now be introduced on 1 July 2022. An EHC is an official document that confirms the export meets the health requirements of the destination country.
“Businesses have faced a range of challenges over recent months as they recover from the global pandemic which has impacted supply chains across Europe. This is being felt particularly by the agri-food sector, where new requirements on importing products of animal origin were due to be introduced from next month.”
The Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, Lord Frost added that rather than introduce these controls at this time, the government has listened to those who have called for a new approach to give businesses more time to adjust.
“We want businesses to focus on their recovery from the pandemic rather than have to deal with new requirements at the border, which is why we’ve set out a pragmatic new timetable for introducing full border controls.”
The move has proved controversial however, with some corners of the food industry reacting with anger that plans for Export Health Certificates have been changed so close to their implementation date.
“Many food and drink manufacturers will be dismayed by the lateness of this substantial change. Businesses have invested very significant time and money in preparing for the new import regime on 1 October 2021. Now, with just 17 days to go, the rug has been pulled. This move penalizes those who followed Government advice and rewards those who ignored it. As recently as yesterday, officials assured us that import checks would be implemented as planned,” said Ian Wright, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).
He highlighted that the repeated failure to implement full UK border controls on EU imports since beginning of the year undermines trust and confidence among businesses, worse, it actually helps the UK’s competitors. The asymmetric nature of border controls facing exports and imports distorts the market and places many UK producers at a competitive disadvantage with EU producers.
“We welcome the Government’s acknowledgement that supply chains are under extreme pressure but this is to a large extent caused by labor and skills shortages in every part of the food chain. Government must put in place financial support to help prepare for these new deadlines of import controls – industry has invested three times in preparing, only to have wasted this money despite assurances from Government there would be no delay.”