How the UK’s new border control measures will impact animal and plant imports

Tuesday marks the beginning of the physical inspection of animal and plant imports from the EU after more than three-year delays.

Importers have warned trade associations that the new bureaucracy may result in significant costs for importers. This could lead to higher prices on store shelves.

What are these new checks and what will their impact be on consumers and businesses? What can we expect?

The EU introduced checks when the UK left its single market in January 2020.

The second stage of , the government’s Border Target Operating Model Plan (BTOM),.

The first phase was implemented on 31 January of this year and introduced new requirements. This meant that the majority meat, dairy, and plant products required a health certification before they could enter Britain.

The second phase will begin on Tuesday and be the most important, as lorries arriving from the continent are held up at the border posts in ports all over the country for the first inspection.

The government has classified all plants and products of animal or plant origin into three risk groups.

Low risk products are mostly processed food and will not be subject to any checks or require a health certificate. The medium-risk categories include meat, eggs, dairy and cut flowers. High-risk goods such as plants for planting, live animals and animal products will require certificates and will be subjected to inspections.

The government has decided to reduce the number of checks in order to avoid disruption.

In the beginning, it was planned to inspect between 1% and 30 % of goods with medium risks, depending on the product, while 100% of high-risk items would be inspected.

The Financial Times reported in its issue of the month that, for all products except the most risky, checks would be “set to zero”.

The government insists that checks will take place, but says it will adopt a more pragmatist approach to them compared to its original plans.

The government will prioritise “highest-risk” products in all risk categories. Checks will be more “intelligence-led”, taking into consideration factors like the country of origin, and the delivery company. The government will also adjust it based on the compliance of goods, and disruption levels.

The government intends to increase these checks to include full-scale inspections in the future, but hasn’t given a timeframe.

William Bain, the head of the British Chamber of Commerce’s trade policy, said that firms are facing “increasing confusion and unease about how and when border checks and costs will fully be implemented”.

Far from it. This is just the latest in an ongoing series of delays that has seen five start dates moved back since 2021.

The first three delays occurred largely due to the fact that the border checkpoints, or the facilities to conduct the checks , were not finished, or had even been started.

Jacob Rees Mogg, the minister for Brexit and opportunities, announced in April 2022 a new delay . This was due to fears that this would increase household costs. In October 2023, a second delay was announced due to concerns about business readiness and inflation.

The government estimates that new border checks would cost businesses an extra £330m per year and increase food prices by 0.2% over the next three years. Recent Allianz Trade report estimated that it would cost £2bn per year and increase headline inflation by 0.2%.

The government published earlier this month its rates for . These rates are the costs to send goods via the government-run Sevington border post in Kent, which will handle goods traveling through the Port of Dover or Channel Tunnel. The government set the common user charge at £29 per type of product with a maximum of £145 for mixed consignments.

Adding in the additional costs associated with the new rules such as health certificates, port-health costs and administrative costs could make the total cost much higher. Cold Chain Federation calculated recently that sending five products through Dover can cost an extra £761 per load.

The new requirements are estimated to add £1bn in annual costs for companies that move plant and animal products only through Sevington.

Some of the private border control post have not yet published their fees, but they would likely have similar charges to remain competitive.

Nigel Jenney is the CEO of the Fresh Produce Consortium. He said, “They [the government] have created a plan that’s both incompetent, and extremely expensive.”

This will increase costs for our industry, which will be passed onto consumers who are already struggling to keep up with rising living costs.