LONDON — The U.K. has postponed the introduction of controls on EU imports for a second time, and it now expects they won’t be fully in place until July 1, 2022.
Although Britain left the EU’s single market at the end of last year, the U.K. government staggered the introduction of checks on imported goods such as food to allow companies to adapt, in contrast with Brussels, which put them in place immediately.
U.K. Brexit minister David Frost announced Tuesday that full customs declarations and controls will now be introduced on January 1, 2022, rather than on October 1.
Export Health Certificates, also due next month, will now not be required until July 1, 2022, together with phytosanitary certificates and physical checks on fresh food and plants at border control posts.
Full customs declarations and controls will be introduced on January 1, 2022, as previously announced, although safety and security declarations will now not be required until July 1, 2022.
Frost said the delays are necessary because the coronavirus pandemic and global supply chain pressures had hit the agri-food sector in particular and caused shortages of certain products in the U.K.
“We want businesses to focus on their recovery from the pandemic rather than have to deal with new requirements at the border, which is why we’ve set out a pragmatic new timetable for introducing full border controls,” Frost said.
A senior Irish government official in Dublin told POLITICO the delay to the enforcement of border controls at British ports would be welcomed by all exporters in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Britain is the top market for Ireland’s agri-food sector, particularly for beef and dairy products.
“It does not come as a surprise. We were anticipating a great deal of friction in getting goods smoothly into Britain and were doing all we could to ensure that our major agrifood firms were ready to meet the new pre-notification and Export Health Certificate requirements,” they said. “But we did nonetheless expect confusion and delays to apply at the British points of entry, given anecdotal evidence that U.K. preparations and systems were not yet ready.”
The official added: “When these new requirements do come into force on January 1 — if indeed they do come into force then — Irish authorities and businesses should be even more ready.”
Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said last week after talks with the U.K.’s Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove that he had expected the delays to go ahead, but British industry appeared to be blindsided by the government’s announcement.
Lobby group the Food and Drink Federation said many manufacturers would be “dismayed by the lateness of this substantial change.”
Chief executive Ian Wright added in a statement: “Businesses have invested very significant time and money in preparing for the new import regime on 1 October 2021. Now, with just 17 days to go, the rug has been pulled.”
Wright said officials had assured his group as “recently as yesterday” that the checks “would be implemented as planned.”
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