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Brexit Import Fees Set to Impact Food Prices

The UK government has disclosed the impending charges for importing certain foods from the EU post-Brexit. These charges, aimed at funding "world-class border facilities," have raised concerns over potential increases in food prices.

The "common user charge" will be applied per type of good imported, known as the "commodity line," with a cap of £145 for mixed consignments.

Charges for individual products could reach up to £29, affecting goods classified as low, medium, and high risk.

Phil Pluck, Chief Executive of the Cold Chain Federation, warned that these fees would inevitably be passed on to EU importers, small UK retailers, or directly to consumers, leading to higher business costs, increased food prices, and possibly reduced choices for shoppers.

He criticised the government for announcing these charges at the last minute, giving businesses little time to adjust their commercial strategies.

The fees are introduced to cover the costs of border inspections and to fund new facilities in Kent, aimed at protecting biosecurity by preventing the import of plant and animal diseases. However, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has criticised the policy as poorly planned, predicting it will lead to higher costs, reduced consumer choice, and potentially empty shelves.

James Barnes, HTA chairman, highlighted that the horticultural sector, which often includes multiple commodity lines per consignment, will likely face the maximum charge of £145.

The government has postponed these changes five times, partly to allow businesses more time to prepare and to minimise disruption to supply chains. Despite these delays, the introduction of post-Brexit controls on food and farm imports has been met with concern over the potential for increased prices and supply chain challenges.

Labour has expressed worries about the impact on British shoppers and businesses, with Shadow Minister Nick Thomas-Symonds stating that the party has a plan to reduce bureaucracy by negotiating a veterinary agreement with the EU, which would lessen the need for checks and help lower food costs.

The government, however, insists that the flat-rate charge is at the lower end of what was discussed with the industry and is necessary to cover the costs of operating border facilities essential for biosecurity.


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