One week to go until first Border Target Operating Model deadline for imports into Britain

Wed 24 Jan 2024
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News
Border Checks

New trade rules are set to come into force in one week’s time but industry experts are apprehensive about businesses’ readiness for them.

The UK has been introducing post-Brexit import controls in phases, with new rules still to be introduced at three points across 2024 under the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM).

Marco Forgione, the director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT), told Reuters that there are concerns about readiness among smaller EU suppliers.

New rules

From Wednesday next week (31 January), the following new sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls – which particularly impact agrifood businesses – are being introduced:

·        New risk categories – ‘low’, ‘medium’ and ‘high’ – will determine what level of checks and documentation is required for different goods subject to SPS controls

·       Export health certificates will be required for imports of medium-risk animal-origin, plants and plant-based products, as well as high-risk food and feed of non-animal origin entering Britain from the EU

·        Pre-notification requirements will be removed for low-risk plants and plant products from the EU.

Further changes will be introduced on 30 April and 31 October this year, which you can read more about in the IOE&IT’s BTOM and Beyond whitepaper.

Physical checks will begin on several goods – including eggs, dairy, meat and berries – from 30 April.

Lack of awareness

At a free webinar previewing the new rules last week, IOE&IT customs and trade consultant Laura Williams said there was a “lack of awareness of the upcoming deadline”, which she described as a “cause for concern and reflects what we’re hearing more widely from our members and the industry in general”.

This concern was supported by a poll conducted during the webinar which found that 54% of delegates were apprehensive about new rules.

James Beringer, a corporate affairs and trade policy executive at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said there was concern over the “pragmatic implementation” of the new model.

Fixed date

An official from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has told HortWeek that the new rules will not be delayed.

Many of the SPS rules being bought in under BTOM had been due to be introduced at various points already since Brexit, but the government has pushed back their introduction due to the rising costs of doing business following the pandemic and war in Ukraine.

Beringer and Williams highlighted concern about the impact of the new controls on SMEs at last week’s webinar, including the additional cost of obtaining export health certificates.

April concerns

However, William Bain, the head of trade policy at the British Chamber of Commerce, said there was more uncertainty about the impact of the physical checks that are being introduced in April.

"Will the government enforce by preventing material which doesn't have an electronic export health certificate from entering the GB border?” he said in Reuters. “Or does it let stuff in and then simply enforce through contact with the companies involved afterwards? The government's not telling us what they're going to do."

Micheál Martin, Ireland’s Tanaiste (deputy head of government) and foreign affairs minister, urged Irish exporters to ensure they’re ready, amid anxiety in the UK about the readiness of EU businesses sending goods to Britain.

“I am encouraging all Irish companies to speak to everyone in their supply chain and make sure they are ready for the new UK processes starting 31 January,” he told the Irish Post.

Dover cuts

The Dover Port Health Authority (DPHA) has also raised concerns about funding cuts to its inspection team from April – the same time that physical SPS checks are due to be introduced.

Under BTOM, many physical checks will also be moved away from Dover and the Channel Tunnel to a border control post in Sevington, but Dover officials have not yet been told how they will ensure goods will arrive at the inland post after leaving Dover.

“The impact of the cuts will be significant and increase the threat to GB safety by an order of magnitude,” DPHA head Lucy Manzano, told the FT. “We believe that the proposals to move controls away from [Dover] is in effect opening a new door. We’re not taking back control of our border, we’re removing the border control.”

Need more information?

IOE&IT is committed to supporting members and the wider trader community to prepare for new BTOM rules.

Free resources to support the trader community include last week’s webinar, which you can watch back here, and the ‘BTOM and Beyond’ whitepaper outlining around 20 rules changes that are due to take effect for UK cross-border trade over the next 12 months.

IOE&IT members can also get more detailed advice on how to manage new SPS rules under BTOM by:

For more information about IOE&IT BTOM support for its members, download this one-page flyer here.