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The introduction of import controls at British borders with the EU is to be delayed, the government announced this afternoon (Thursday 11 March).

It means Phases 2 and 3 of the government’s Border Operating Model – the post-transition package of customs procedures to control imports from the EU into Great Britain – have been postponed by at least six months, in some cases by nine months and more.

Customs declarations will be required from 1 January 2022 and not 1 July 2021, as originally planned. 

The move comes amid reports that Border Control Post infrastructure in key GB ports is not ready for the April deadline.

New timetable

The government's "revised timetable" involves:

Delayed until 1 October 2021 - 

  • Checks on agri-food and feed (including products of animal origin and high-risk foods not of animal origin) documentation, including Export Health Certification, delayed from 1 April until 1 October 2021

Delayed until 1 January 2022 -

  • Entry Safety and Security (ENS) declarations for imports delayed from 1 July until 1 January 2022
  • Import declarations still required but deferred declaration scheme (eg CFSP procedures), including submitting supplementary declarations up to six months after the goods have been imported, extended from 1 July to 1 January 2022
  • Pre-notification requirements and documentary checks, including phytosanitary certificates will be required for low risk plants and plant products, and will be introduced from 1 January 2022 
  • Physical SPS checks on high risk plants and agri-food and feed (including products of animal origin and high-risk foods not of animal origin) will take place at Border Control Posts, rather than at the place of destination as now, from 1 January 2022

Delayed until March 2022 -

  • From March 2022, checks at Border Control Posts will take place on live animals and low risk plants and plant products
Imports of controlled goods into Great Britain will continue to require a full customs declaration.

Controls and checks on SPS goods entering Scotland and Wales "are a devolved matter" though the government says it will support the completion of Border Control Post infrastructure, in Wales in particular.

'More time to prepare'

In a statement to parliament this afternoon, Cabinet minister Michael Gove said the delays were in response to businesses making “a strong case that they need more time to prepare” and to “the disruption which has been caused, and is still being caused by Covid and the need to ensure that the economy can recover fully”.

See the IOE&IT's summary of '10 things to know about the government's Border Operating Model' here

Gove added that the government would "continue to engage extensively with businesses to support them to adjust to the new requirements already in place and to prepare for the new requirements set out so that they can continue to trade successfully under the new arrangements".