Post-Brexit physical border checks on animal and plant-based goods imported to the UK from July will be introduced on a staggered basis, The Grocer can reveal.
The government confirmed the SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) import controls would be introduced on a phased basis from 1 July in a bid to ensure both businesses and border inspectors are not overwhelmed initially.
Government has yet to release details of the running order in which commodities will be subjected to physical checks at designated border checkpoints.
This has led to frustration among industry sources, who are worried companies subject to the initial checks will be at a commercial disadvantage to those that will be checked further down the line.
“The whole thing is a shambles,” said one senior industry source.
“The businesses selling commodities which government puts at the end of the list will have a competitive advantage over those in the front of the queue, a queue which at this moment in time looks entirely arbitrary. And what about trucks with mixed loads?”
This will be the third change to the government’s plan for the checks since the start of the transition period following the UK’s exit from the EU. Full checks have been in place for exports since then.
Physical SPS border checks were originally scheduled to commence in July 2020 before being pushed back to January 2021. The current plan for July next year was introduced two months ago.
However, the government denied the staggering of this process indicated a further delay.
“Full sanitary and phytosanitary import controls will commence from 1 July 2022 and will be phased in. We will provide traders with more information in due course,” said a Defra spokesman.
“We are ready to introduce import controls on schedule. In September, a pragmatic decision was taken to allow more time for businesses to recover from the pandemic.”
While the physical checks will begin in July, importers will need to provide customs declarations pre-notification of agri-goods for animal and plant-based goods from 1 January.