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Confusion Reigns over Brexit Border Checks Chaos

The British government has insisted that the next round of Brexit border checks on plant and animals products will begin on April 30.

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It follows a report in the Financial Times which claimed UK port authorities had been told that health and safety checks on EU imports would not be going ahead as planned due to fears of “significant disruption” with a return to long queues of lorries at ports.

In a statement issued in response, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it has full confidence the border infrastructure will be ready. The checks would proceed as planned and the priority from day one will be on the highest risk goods.

“Port Health Authorities will be conducting documentary checks on consignments of all risk levels and will contact traders where they have concerns,” Defra said. The system will be turned up to full check levels “in a sensible and controlled way”.

A UK Government spokesperson added: “Checks are commencing from 30 April and, as we have always said, the medium- and high-risk goods posing the greatest biosecurity risk are being prioritised as we build up to full check rates and high levels of compliance.

“Taking a pragmatic approach to introducing our new border checks minimises disruption, protects our biosecurity and benefits everyone – especially traders.”

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue met with Steve Barclay, the UK minister for environment and food, this week and they discussed the new UK import control regime for agri-food goods.

A spokeswoman for Mr McConalogue said both ministers underlined the importance of continued engagement between their departments to minimise any disruption to trade.

“Secretary of State Barclay did not indicate at this meeting that there would be any changes to proposed new UK control requirements, due to commence on April 30,” she added.

“Minister McConalogue is aware Defra have confirmed that this remains the case in their response to recent media articles suggesting a postponement will be announced.”

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs pointed out that the next phase of border checks really only affects Irish operators using Britain as a landbridge to move goods to and from the EU and further afield.

“This phase impacts EU goods entering Britain at specific border control posts primarily along its east coast,” the spokesman said. “It therefore will not impact goods exports from Ireland to Britain via west-coast ports.”

It added: “The Government is engaging with Irish stakeholders to ensure they are aware of the new UK requirements.”

The head of the Irish Exporters Association has called on the British government to clarify exactly what new Brexit border checks are being introduced at the end of the month. “There is total confusion about this,” said Simon McKeever, CEO of the association.

“From my communication with traders in the UK, they haven’t heard anything about this [delay]. They are looking for clarity, having read the Financial Times article.”

The newspaper claims to have seen a presentation by Defra saying the border controls would not be fully ready, that the rate of checks would initially be “set to zero for all commodity groups” and there would be a “phased implementation approach”.

“There is a potential for significant disruption on day one if all commodity codes are turned on at once,” the presentation reportedly said.

Businesses in the UK, which will have to pay up to £145 (€168) per consignment for EU imports from April 30, have been asking for the new border controls to be delayed until the autumn.


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