Businesses still unclear on BTOM changes and split on whether it will benefit their ability to trade

Thu 5 Oct 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
IOE News

Less than a fifth of UK businesses are clear about whether upcoming changes to the British border will affect them, according to a straw poll on a webinar hosted by the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) yesterday (4 October).

When asked how clear they were about whether the government’s Border Target Operating Model will impact them, only 6% said they were ‘completely clear’ with another 16% saying they were just ‘clear’.

IOE&IT director of strategic projects and international development Kevin Shakespeare said, “there is a need to raise awareness of how the model is going to work.”

“There’s a lot going on in the trade and customs space in the UK. It can be a challenge to keep up, but there are also opportunities for business operating compliantly, that take the time to analyse and stay up-to-date on the changes.”

Risk categorisations

The new border model lays out how the UK government will introduce remaining import controls on goods entering Great Britain from the EU that have not yet been introduced since Brexit, including several sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements.

A key part of the plan is for the UK to adopt a digitalised and risk-based approach to conducting border checks, with agencies conducting differing levels of checks on goods depending on their risk categories. This modernised approach will also apply to goods entering Britain from non-EU markets.

In another poll from the webinar, only 8% of the delegates said they had a comprehensive understanding of the current risk categorisations in the BTOM.


However, despite the lack of clarity over the details of the model – which is over 200 pages long – most of the delegates (73%) said they were familiar with the timeline for when the new controls will be introduced.

The audience was split as to whether they thought the model would be beneficial to their ability to trade internationally, with roughly 51% responding positively.

Anna Doherty, a senior customs and trade specialist at IOE&IT, reflected:

“The impact of the model will vary depending on what you trade.

“For example, for exporters of SPS goods, the EU has been implementing controls right from the end of the transition period. To bring these checks into the UK will even out the playing field for these businesses.

“The model is also bringing in a range of simplifications. If you’re bringing in SPS goods from the rest of the world, then the modernisation in this regime will allow you to align your processes.”

BTOM and beyond

The changes that are coming in under BTOM are part a wider raft of new rules and requirements that UK traders are needing to adapt to over the next 18 months – also including the migration to CDS for exporters, the new NCTS5 system for transit users, and changes for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland under the Windsor Framework.

The IOE&IT has highlighted this upcoming period of upheaval in its new ‘BTOM and Beyond’ campaign, which features a whitepaper outlining several of the changes and their likely impact on businesses, as well as a series of questionnaires assisting businesses to identify which changes will affect them and where they can get support to prepare.

You can read more about the campaign and access the whitepaper here.