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UK Implements Full Border Controls on EU Goods: Challenges and Concerns Ahead

This year heralds a significant milestone as the United Kingdom gears up to implement comprehensive border controls on goods entering from the European Union post-Brexit, introducing stringent checks, potential delays, and additional charges for importers and their EU suppliers.

UK Implements Full Border Controls on EU Goods: Challenges and Concerns Ahead

The transition, set to unfold gradually, will first impact the food and agricultural sector. "The changes will affect importers and their EU suppliers, and both are advised to prepare for increased checks, possible delays, and new charges," according to a statement.


Since the end of January, health and/or phytosanitary certificates have been mandatory for all food and agriproducts originating from EU nations.


Come April 30, a new phase will see the enforcement of documentary and risk-based identity and physical checks for these products. Alongside, certain routine checks for plant and animal goods categorized as low risk will be reduced.


In response to these changes, the UK government has released comprehensive guidance covering various categories of animal and plant products, advising UK importers to disseminate this information to their EU counterparts. "The port operator will not release a consignment from the port until they have been informed that it has been cleared by the relevant inspection authority," the guidance emphasizes.


Looking ahead, further adjustments are anticipated by October, with all EU imports likely requiring safety and security documentation akin to goods from non-EU countries.


Jonathan Rush, representing Travers Smith law firm, underscores the potential disruptions posed by forthcoming physical checks on agrifood items, expressing concerns over supply chain integrity. He said, "Whether we will see headline-grabbing queues of lorries is another matter, especially as the government is proposing to prioritize the flow of goods over checks."


Rush raises substantive concerns regarding the new regime's impact on UK biosecurity and questions the reliability of the government's data used for modeling. He referred to a letter by Lucy Manzano, head of port health and public protection at Dover District Council, highlighting her worries about statements by Steve Barclay, secretary of state for the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Manzano argued DEFRA’s data is “incomplete and flawed” and underestimates the number of food and agriproduct consignments requiring checks.


Moreover, Rush points out the logistical complexities arising from cargo checks occurring 21 miles from the Dover port, potentially amplifying biosecurity risks.


Anticipating financial implications, Rush predicts increased costs due to the loss of groupage transport advantages and the introduction of the common user charge, designed to apportion part of the check costs to businesses. He warns that some EU suppliers may opt to discontinue trade with the UK, leading to diminished competition and potential price hikes by remaining market players.


Reflecting on past trends, Rush notes the adverse impact of full border controls imposed in 2021, which led many UK small- and medium-sized enterprises to cease exports to the EU. He suggests a similar scenario might unfold with smaller EU firms supplying the UK, particularly for agrifood products, potentially exacerbating market dynamics.



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