UK delays post-Brexit border checks on EU imports until next July to avoid Christmas chaos

Brexit border checks due to start next month have been shelved to avoid food shortages this Christmas

The decision by the UK government to introduce Brexit red tape on European Union food and agriculture imports has been delayed until July 2022 in order to combat food shortages this Christmas.

The last few months have seen food shortages on supermarket shelves and fears over Christmas food supply due to the pandemic, Brexit and shortage of lorry drivers.

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The decision to shelve border checks means firms shipping live animals, food, toys and electronics into Britain will face less form-filling and it will ease supply chains.

Government ministers have insisted the paper checks will be re-applied from New Year’s Day.

Physical checks on food, agricultural and plant products will be pushed back from January to July 2022.

Why have border checks been delayed?

Cabinet Office Minister, Penny Mordaunt, has blamed Covid and increasing costs putting pressure on global supply chains sparking fears over Christmas food shortages.

Brexit minister Lord Frost emphasised how “pressures on global supply chains, caused by a wide range of factors including the pandemic and the increased costs of global freight transport” has led to the government’s decision.

Other factors are the worries over delays in Christmas orders, as well as big supermarket chains Tesco and Iceland warning customers of potential food shortages such as no pigs in blankets.

Delays have also been introduced as a way to give companies more time to adapt to this new trading relationship with Europe.

Despite British goods having a full range of checks from the EU since 1 January when Brexit was sealed, the decision to delay border checks over Christmas will hopefully see less shortages and disruption over the festive period.

What’s been said?

Lord Frost has emphasised the importance of the delay on firms.

“We want businesses to focus on their recovery from the pandemic rather than have to deal with new requirements at the border, which is why we’ve set out a pragmatic new timetable for introducing full border controls,” he said.

However, the Food and Drink Federation reacted angrily, arguing it “penalised” those who had prepared for the checks, some of which were due to come into force next month.

Chief executive of the federation Ian Wright said: “Many food and drink manufacturers will be dismayed by the lateness of this substantial change.

“Businesses have invested very significant time and money in preparing for the new import regime on October 1. Now, with just 17 days to go, the rug has been pulled.”

Ian Wright has also highlighted the negative impact these delays will have on UK producers.

“The asymmetric nature of border controls facing exports and imports distorts the market and places many UK producers at a competitive disadvantage with EU producers,” he said.

“The repeated failure to implement full UK border controls on EU imports since January 1 2021 undermines trust and confidence among businesses. Worse, it actually helps the UK’s competitors.”

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