Ministers are considering extending post-Brexit border checks for agrifoods entering Britain from the EU in order to avert what has been dubbed a “supply chain disaster”, according to a report in the Financial Times.
A fourth delay to the introduction of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) is being mooted because of already mounting supply issues and the cost-of-living crisis.
The FT says Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Brexit minister Lord David Frost both want Boris Johnson to extend the “grace period” for EU imports.
The phased approach to post-Brexit import controls was first announced in June 2020, but the deadline for SPS and other rules was extended in March 2021 and again in September 2021.
In November 2021, the government pledged that certification and physical checks would be introduced for products of animal origin, animal by-products, plants and plant products in three phases from July 2022.
(The current timeline for when SPS checks will be introduced on EU agrifoods entering Britain)
According to a government source quoted by The Independent: “Ministers are looking at this again in the light of cost of living pressures and supply chain pressures.”
It added that “the war in Ukraine has also changed the economic context.”
Many trade bodies and businesses are said to be sympathetic to another delay.
Shane Brennan, CEO of the Cold Chain Federation, told the FT that full veterinary controls on food imports from the EU would lead to “a collapse in supplies” for UK businesses.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drink Federation has said that a delay is justified due to the crisis in Ukraine, which has massively impacted supplies of wheat, sunflower oil and fish.
Others, however, have expressed their disquiet about the suggested delay, saying it will give EU firms a competitive advantage over businesses in the UK.
According to James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, a further delay would “stick in the throat of a lot of exporters who are now 15 months into navigating a tsunami of paperwork that our EU competitors are not facing.”
Earlier this month it was reported that this “uneven playing field” was responsible for UK food and drink exports to the EU falling by almost a quarter in the nine months since Brexit took effect.
A spokesperson for Rees Mogg said: “At a time of high and rising inflation and supply-chain difficulties, we should not introduce burdensome checks that will impose costs on ourselves, on businesses and consumers.”
On Thursday 7 April the Institute of Export and International Trade will be running a live webinar on the rule changes that are, for now, due to come in on 1 July.
The webinar will cover what the new rules mean for traders, including where export health and phytosanitary certificates will be required.
You can sign up to the free webinar click here.