Right now, the UK simply cannot afford to move away from the free flow of food, imported from the European Union. So now, in another widely-predicted delay, we have two new dates to work towards: 1st Jan and 1st July 2022.
According to the British Retail Consortium, 30% of all food eaten in the United Kingdom is produced in Europe and the country particularly relies on the EU for fresh food during the winter months. Our food and drink industry is already warning of shortages, which have been exacerbated by loss of access to immigrant labour post-Brexit. Potentially, further delays at the border in the run up to Christmas could have seen our supermarket shelves empty.
With the announcement from Government that the latest round of post-Brexit border controls are to be delayed again, I’m sure I’m not alone in my sense of déjà vu. The constant moving of the original deadline for the UK to leave the European Union caused considerable uncertainty and confusion for businesses in all sectors, not least warehousing, where the impact of delays on supply chains are keenly felt.
Well, here we are again, many having prepared for the next phase of transition that had already been rescheduled from January to October, now find that with only a couple of weeks to go, the deadline has been pushed back further. The requirement for pre-notification of agri-food imports will now be introduced on 1st January 2022, while requirements for Export Health Certificates, Phytosanitary Certificates and physical checks on SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) goods at Border Control Posts, will not come into force until 1st July 2022.
Similarly, Safety and Security declarations on imports will be required from 1st July 2022 as opposed to January.
The Government has stated that these delays are down in part to the global pandemic, both in the UK and in the European Union. It also acknowledges ‘pressures on global supply chains, caused by a wide range of factors including… increased costs of global freight transport.’ Others, however, have suggested that the measures are simply too difficult to implement, requiring as they do enough vets to undertake the necessary checks and certifications.
Another issue is digitalisation. While the UK Government is looking more towards digital services, many European counterparts are not ‘on the same page’ nor will they be able to interface with the new UK systems when they come on stream.
There is scepticism in some quarters as to whether the July 2022 deadlines could be pushed back again, but in the meantime, it is important that we prepare for the changes ahead regardless. While those already prepared for an October and January timeline may be frustrated by the delay, others will see it as a reprieve. The Government has given us extra time and we should use it wisely.
UKWA members should contact the Association for specialist advice on Customs requirements.