Britain delays post-Brexit border checks, citing impact of pandemic

Britain says it is delaying launching a post-Brexit border check on food imports from the EU

The delay means paperwork and investigations for EU agricultural and animal products starting in October will not be presented until next year.

The UK said a “practical new timetable” would ease pressure on businesses grappling with supply chain disruptions from the pandemic.

The government said the paperwork on plant and animal products which was supposed to start from October 1, has been extended till January 1. It said customs declarations and controls would be introduced as planned on January 1, but security and security declarations would not be required until July 1.

“We want businesses to focus on recovering from the pandemic rather than tackling new requirements at the border,” said Brexit Minister David Frost.

He added that the pandemic “has had a longer-term impact on businesses, both in the UK and in the EU, than many observers expected.”

“Global supply chains are also under pressure, caused by a wide range of factors including the pandemic and rising costs of global freight transport. These pressures are being felt especially in the agri-food sector.”

Since Britain left the EU single market at the end of 2020, imports from the bloc are subject to the same scrutiny as goods from everywhere in the world.

This is the second time the UK has postponed the presentation of some of the checks agreed to in its divorce deal from the EU. It has already been suspended indefinitely on food products traveling to Northern Ireland from the rest of the country. This has triggered a dispute with the European Union, which has threatened legal action.

There has been little progress in UK-EU talks on resolving differences over trade rules. Britain’s Conservative government has accused the 27-nation bloc of being unnecessarily “purist” in its approach to the rules, while the EU says Britain has failed to implement the deal that Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed.

The British Chambers of Commerce called the latest delay in border checks “sensible”. But the UK’s Food and Drink Federation accused the government of blinding businesses that had prepared for the checks.

“This move punishes those who followed government advice and rewards those who ignore it,” said chief executive Ian Wright.

He added that “the asymmetric nature of border controls facing exports and imports distorts the market and places many UK producers at a competitive disadvantage with EU producers.”


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