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NPA concern over reports of further EU import check delays

4th Aug 2023 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA is ‘deeply concerned’ at reports that the Government is, once again, set to delay the introduction of checks on food imports from the EU.

Dover portNew controls on UK meat exports to the EU came into force as soon as the UK formally left the EU in January 2021.

But promised equivalent checks in the UK were repeatedly delayed until, in April last year, the Government said it would not be introducing any checks until a new digital system was in place.

In April, the government announced that the draft Border Target Operating Model would be phased in over the course of a year, starting with the introduction of health certification on imports of medium risk animal and plant products from October 31, with further checks implemented over the following 12 months.

But, according to a report in the Financial Times (subscription), also reported in the Guardian, this is going to be delayed for the fifth time, with the decision due to be announced imminently. It is expected these checks will now be pushed back to the end of January, when physical SPS checks are due to become operational.

The delay is intended to give the government and exporters in the EU more time to prepare for the checks, but, as the report states, it sets Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ‘on a collision course with domestic UK food producers’ who have long argued that it gives a free pass to EU rivals while they have to endure checks on all fresh food exports.

Government insiders told the FT that the driving force behind the move is the need to bear down on inflation, as the checks will impose ‘additional costs at the border’.

NPA comment

NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson said: “Once again, it appears we were not told the full story by Government and, once again, this is hugely frustrating for our members.

“We have two fundamental concerns. While our members have been burdened with the cost and inconvenience of additional checks on EU exports since January 2021, the failure to impose equivalent EU checks is unfair and puts UK food producers at a significant disadvantage.

“But, more importantly, as the Government has been repeatedly warned, we need robust checks in place at our borders to protect the UK pig herd from African swine fever, a disease present and currently spreading in a number of EU countries that we trade with. The cost savings of delaying these checks would pale into insignificance compared with the massive costs of an ASF outbreak.”