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Delay to Brexit food import checks 'seriously disregards' farmers

Further delays to introducing post-Brexit border controls on fresh farm produce from the EU 'seriously disregards' the interests of British farmers, NFU Scotland has warned.

Checks on animal and food products coming to the UK from the EU have been delayed for a fifth time, according to media reports.

The government has raised concern that the extra checks on imported goods would worsen inflation and push up prices.

A formal announcement on the delay and a fresh timescale for introducing border checks and controls is expected soon.

Since January 2021, the UK food and farming industry has been told on several occasions that a system delivering border checks on food, with additional measures verifying the health and safety of meat products, would be delivered.

But NFU Scotland said the latest delay would 'anger and appal' the UK food and farming sector, as the government favoured a "cheap food policy" that encouraged "asymmetric trade".

President Martin Kennedy said: "Its lax approach to border controls continues to leave farmers exposed to the introduction of devastating animal and plant diseases such as African swine fever.

"It also leaves our food and drink exporters jumping through the hoops of a full border check to get our produce into the EU while those sending their goods here from Europe continue to do so at a competitive advantage.

"This continuing asymmetric trade devalues any claims lauding the Trade and Cooperation Agreement by the UK government," he warned.

The delay is intended to give the government and exporters in the EU more time to prepare for the checks, but, as reports state, it sets Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ‘on a collision course with domestic UK food producers’.

The food and farming industry have long argued that it gives a free pass to EU rivals while they have to endure checks on all fresh food exports.

Government insiders told the media that the driving force behind the move is the need to bear down on inflation, as the checks will impose ‘additional costs at the border’.

But NFU Scotland warned that the "longer there is no effective system in place, the greater the distortion of the market for UK producers".

"We understand that the UK government will shortly set out the new timetable for the import regime, to finally deliver a level playing field for UK farming, food and drink sectors," Mr Kennedy said.

"Regrettably, there will be little confidence amongst industry that the timetable will be adhered to."

Nigel Jenney, Chief Executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) highlighted the role of the FPC in devising potential solutions. "FPC, in conjunction with its members, has offered several effective solutions which must now be rapidly rolled out. These include cost-effective inspection solutions for SMEs, groupage consignments, and the approval of responsible companies to complete their own official inspections," he said.

"Ultimately, we need cost-effective border solutions which support our international trade ambitions while meeting the needs of our highly efficient diverse supply chains."

Read FPC's consultation responses below:

FPC Target Operating Model Consultation 18.05.2023 FINAL
Download PDF • 257KB
FPC Common User Charge Consultation 07.07.2023 FINAL
Download PDF • 216KB


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