Food importers face more pain from Brexit charges

Importers are set to face hundreds of pounds of extra charges when the next wave of post-Brexit checks affecting food products are introduced this summer, port bosses have warned.

Industry leaders are braced for bigger disruptions in July when physical inspections on certain products are introduced, with costly charges expected to be passed onto consumers already feeling the pinch.

From July, animal and plant products such as food being imported from the EU will need export health certificates and could be stopped for costly inspections by border authorities. 

Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association, warned the charges from the routine physical checks, such as paying for vets and cleaning, could be hundreds of pounds.

“If your goods are inspected, there is a cost … that obviously is then passed on to the importer and ultimately, that is passed on to manufacturers and consumers.”

He added: “If you’re thinking about transporting a lorry from the Continent to here, that might be quite substantial.”

The latest set of post-Brexit trading rules were brought in on January 1 with the new customs controls causing only minor problems. The rollout of the latest rules has largely been smooth but port sources say some lorries have been turned back over problems inputting data.

However, the changes on July 1 are expected to be more disruptive, potentially leading to higher costs for consumers and firms rethinking supply.

James Sibley, head of international affairs at Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The changes that we saw on New Year’s Day carry administrative burdens but what’s coming in July is another level. 

“You will have physical inspection of products of animal origin at border inspection posts, which could be very disruptive. Then also with your suppliers, you’re relying on them to provide these export health certificates which if they don’t, basically the system doesn’t work.”

He added that smaller firms will be less able to absorb the “quite high costs” associated with the inspections.

While the EU imposed full post-Brexit border rules last year, the UK has phased in and repeatedly delayed its checks amid fears of trade disruption.  

A government spokesman said: “We have always looked to take a pragmatic approach when introducing import controls, balancing the need to allow more time for businesses to recover from the pandemic and maintaining our high biosecurity standards.  

“That is why we will be phasing in full sanitary and phytosanitary checks from 1 July 2022 and we will continue to work closely with traders to ensure these are introduced smoothly.” 

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