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"It's Just Not Possible to Absorb These Costs": Traders Speak Out!

The second phase of new UK border control checks kicked in from midnight last night and concerns for the future of British traders are growing with a stark warning from Nigel Jenney, Chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium, about the ‘crippling charges being imposed by the government, making us the ‘laughingstock of Europe’.



Traders like John Davidson, co-owner of flower company Tom Brown Wholesale, are fearful of, and confused by, the new checks, the consignment costs of which mean many of them will be fighting to keep their businesses afloat.


Health certificates were introduced in January on EU goods ranging from cut flowers to fresh produce, including fruit and vegetables. From today, physical checks for these goods have come into force.


British exporters trading in the other direction have already faced increased bureaucracy for three years. The introduction of such UK border controls reverses the free flow of such goods, which had been allowed under the EU single market since 1993.


The physical checks will be carried out based on the "risk" category goods fall into. For example, the government said high-risk goods, such as live animals, will be subject to identity and physical checks for pests and diseases at the border.


Products that present a medium risk to biosecurity will also be checked.


The new checks are not yet being applied to goods from the Republic of Ireland, which is a major supplier of food to the UK. The UK government says the checks on Irish goods will not happen before November.


Businesses, especially smaller companies, have raised concerns that the new checks could disrupt supply chains and increase costs, with importers having to pay £29 per shipment of particular products.



If multiple types of product are being imported by one business, such as meat, fish and cheese, the company will have to pay £29 per category, up to a maximum of £145 per consignment. The government has forecast the charges will cost British firms about £330m per year.


John Davidson, co-owner of flower company Tom Brown Wholesale, said he expected the checks to cost his business between £200,000 and £225,000 per year.


"Usually, we try and absorb as much as we can, but those sorts of costs... [it's] just not possible to absorb everything," he said.


He told BBC Breakfast his "bigger worry" was how the physical checks would work in practice.

"These products are already checked in Holland. From an industry point of view, the communication has really been lacking. At the moment, Defra (the government department) is saying they are going to use [a] light-touch approach to checking. What does that actually mean?


"We just want some real clarity on it," said Davidson.

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