We receive several questions from members every day on the IOE&IT technical helpline and across our training courses and webinars.
In this exclusive series for IOE&IT members, we tackle 10 of your most frequently asked questions from over the last few months. This edition looks at questions we’ve been receiving ahead of the introduction of new sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules on 31 January under the British government’s Border Target Operating Model (BTOM).
IOE&IT trade and customs consultant Laura Williams is in the hotseat answering the questions.
This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The answers were given during an interview that took place on 10 January 2024.
- What do GB importers need to be telling EU suppliers ahead of 31 January?
The key thing to remember is that there are new processes coming in on both sides of the Channel as a result of these new rules. The moment the EU supplier’s goods move over the EU border – whether it’s heading to Northern Ireland or Britain – they will be required to provide additional certificates and documents, as set out in BTOM. If the goods are landing in Northern Ireland there will also be a mandatory full inspection.
From a UK importer perspective, you will need to ensure your EU supplier has an established point of contact with the animal or plant health department in their own country. For UK exporters this would be DEFRA or APHA, for example; EU countries will have their own equivalents which the EU suppliers will need to contact.
For products of animal origin, the EU supplier will also need to establish links with an official veterinarian (OV). The export health certificate has to be obtained and approved by the OV. The OV will need to physically visit your premises to check and approve each pallet or item that’s being shipped, providing a physical certificate for each. There is a cost associated with that, and the GB importer and EU supplier would need to decide who that’s allocated to.
The physical certificate must physically accompany the goods as it will be stamped and signed. The electronic copies must be sent to the importer or their appointed representative.
There are similar problems and processes involved in getting phytosanitary or catch certificates for plants, fish and non-farmed fish.
The other thing the EU supplier will need to ensure is that they have the required certificates a minimum of 24 hours in advance of the goods crossing the border. They will need to lodge a pre-notification of the goods movement, with the accompanying certification, using a system called TRACES.
- We’ve heard that there’s a shortage of OVs – what can EU suppliers do to mitigate this?
There is an issue at the moment because of the limited number of available OVs. The EU supplier will therefore need to ensure they’ve contacted an OV well in advance of the export.
If they leave it too late before the goods are due to move, they may not be able to book an appointment in time and their goods won’t be able to cross the border because they won’t have the required certification.
- How will this impact EU suppliers’ processes and instructions to hauliers when sending goods overseas into the UK?
You need to have a clear timeline and logistical plan in place for obtaining the documentation, and you also need to book your transportation and method of crossing – whether it’s by train or ferry, and what route the goods will travel by.
The key thing is to ensure you’ve got the necessary certification well in advance – whether that’s an export health certificate for animal-origin products, phytosanitary certificate for plants or catch certificate for fish.
The EU supplier will need to ensure they have obtained all the relevant documentation and uploaded these onto TRACES at least 24 hours before the crossing time – and they’re going to be very strict on these deadlines from 31 January.
- What does the British business need from the EU supplier for the import side of the process?
The EU supplier will need to provide a digital copy of the export health, phytosanitary or catch certificate to the GB importer so that the GB business, or their customs broker, can lodge it with the IPAFFS system in the UK, 24 hours in advance of the goods movement.
The GB business or their broker will also need to lodge this in the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) as well, and they will be given a pre-authorisation number for the movement. This will be needed for the haulier when they’re creating a Goods Movement Reference (GMR) number in the Goods Vehicle Movement System (GVMS).
As with the export requirements outside of the EU, this cannot be done last minute and you need to ensure you have a clear timescale and logistical plan for obtaining the documentation.
Within IPAFFS, a common health entry document (CHED) will be created and there are different types of CHED for different products – CHED P is the one predominantly used within most SPS movements, but there are other CHEDs for goods regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and other high-risk or unusual goods. If your goods are chosen for inspection at the border, the agent will complete the CHED with the written result of the inspection.
This document will need to accompany the goods to the final destination and the importer will then need to close off the movement on the system by confirming that the goods have been delivered. This is done so that if an inspector from APHA or DEFRA wants to look at the goods after their arrival, they know where they’re going to be.
The system isn’t 100% live yet in the UK, so no one has experienced any issues or penalties for not closing their IPAFFS record so far, but from one minute past midnight on 31 January everything will come into full effect. From this point, if they haven’t closed their CHED, or if they haven’t had their notification submitted in a timely manner, the importer won’t be able to continue to move the goods. HMRC and Border Force could then penalise the importer or even prohibit them from continuing to import SPS goods.
- Will my goods be inspected and does this determine which port my goods need to enter through?
Risk-based identity and physical checks will be introduced on medium-risk animal and plant goods from the EU, except from Ireland, from 30 April. The inspections that need to be conducted will be determined by the risk assessments completed on the back of the documentation that’s uploaded, which is why there’s the 24-hour notice period via TRACES in the EU and IPAFFS in the UK, as this will give border force agencies the time to select which goods need to be inspected.
It’s vital, however, for importers to select the correct border control post (BCP) for the goods to enter the UK through, as not all BCPs will have the facilities to process the different types of SPS goods.
The government has provided an interactive map setting out which BCPs can process the different types of goods.
- How can my customs broker support?
A lot of suppliers and importers will have brokers who they can nominate to manage the customs processes for them, although they now charge additional costs for submitting pre-lodgements for the goods movements.
The EU supplier will nonetheless need to manage the process of obtaining the SPS certification (e.g. export health or phytosanitary certificates) themselves and then provide these to their broker so that they can pre-lodge the movement through TRACES.
Your customs intermediary in the UK will also support customs processes around the goods movements, but they will need to be provided with the SPS documentation in a timely manner to ensure they can lodge the pre-notifications with IPAFFS and get the pre-authorisation number to generate the GMR for the haulier.
- What role will the Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates (PEACHES) play in this?
PEACHES will no longer be operational by the end of the month. IPAFFS is essentially replacing it, so it’s vital that importers and their brokers register to it as soon as possible.
- What about goods entering Northern Ireland from the EU?
There are a few different goods movements between the EU and Northern Ireland that we need to consider.
If goods are moving from Rotterdam into Dublin that are at risk of moving into Northern Ireland – for example, there may be an Irish wholesaler supplying into Northern Ireland – then relevant SPS certificates will need to be obtained by the original supplier on the continent.
If you are using the transit landbridge from the EU into Northern Ireland across Great Britain, and the goods are staying in Northern Ireland, you will need to meet all the UK requirements – that is SPS certificates for medium- and high-risk goods. You can check the import risk categories here.
You will also need to lodge pre-notifications for low-risk goods entering Northern Ireland in both IPAFFS and TRACES but will not need to obtain a certificate.
The biggest thing to remember is that as soon as EU goods come through the UK and stay in Northern Ireland, whether using transit or not, there are 100% certificates and 100% inspections, with exactly the same rules and regulations as the UK main ports.
If you’re transiting goods through to the EU from Britain, and they’re going through Northern Ireland, you will need SPS certificates, even if the final destination is Ireland. To avoid this, you may need to move goods directly from mainland EU into Ireland, avoiding Northern Ireland.
- What additional costs will there be due to the new SPS documentation requirements?
On average, the cost in Europe is generally around £38 for obtaining the certifying documentation – e.g. the export health certificate – and a certificate will be needed for each item or a palette of items. There’s also additional administration costs if you’re using a broker to upload this onto TRACES in the EU and a broker for putting it onto IPAFFS in the UK.
The average overall additional cost I’ve heard, for the new processes around medium-risk plant-based or animal-origin products, is an additional £140 per shipment.
- I’m unsure of how to comply with these new SPS requirements. Where can I get further help?
IOE&IT runs a regular training course on SPS procedures which you can sign up to here, while it also delivers SPS consultancies, which you can read more about here.
IOE&IT members get discounts to both of these services and you can also watch back the recording of our recent Lunchtime Learning webinar about the new rules here.