Government’s draft border control plans introduce risk-based controls on food and feed coming into the UK from the EU
Thursday, 25 May 2023, Steve Smethurst
EHP warns of “leaky border” as plans fail to address issues including the ‘white van trader’, bringing meat from potentially unsafe origins, while BRC worries about supply chain disruption
Concerns have been raised about the government’s border-control plans post-Brexit. These range from delays for food suppliers and higher-prices for consumers, to limited opportunity for consultation and potential loopholes for ‘white-van’ traders.
The government published its delayed draft UK Border Target Operating Model (TOM) in April, the document marking the second half of the implementation of the EU-exit for the UK food industry.
Lord Richard Benyon, a minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, highlighted the need for strong border controls. He said: “Invasive diseases could cost our farms and businesses billions of pounds, threaten our food safety and break confidence in UK exports around the world. That is why we are working hand in glove with businesses to devise a strong system that works for the nation."
FSA Chair, Susan Jebb welcomed the proposals. She said: “Last year the FSA’s annual report on food standards concluded that establishing full UK import controls for high-risk food and feed from the EU by the end of 2023 must be a priority.
“This reflected our concern that the longer the UK operates without assurances that EU products meet our high safety standards, the less confident we can be that we can effectively identify potential safety incidents. We therefore strongly support the introduction of risk-based controls on food and feed coming into the UK from the EU.”
However, Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said it was “imperative" the government stepped up its engagement with retailers and their European suppliers to ensure the supply chains are prepared, preventing any disruption for customers and businesses.
“We have emphasised concerns about the potential impact of new processes and charging proposals at a time when consumers are already faced with exceptionally high food inflation.”
Nichola Mallon, Logistics UK’s Head of Trade and Devolved Policy, pointed out the “very challenging, tight timescales” and the fact these will be implemented alongside changes to customs, border and trading processes – such as the Windsor Framework for Northern Ireland.
She said: “We have raised the challenges faced by groupage operators and emphasised concerns about the potential impact of new processes and charging proposals at a time when consumers are already faced with exceptionally high food inflation.”
Helen Buckingham, a Chartered EHP with 30 years’ experience in local and central government, said: “This is the biggest shake up in border controls for 50 years. The UK Border TOM is about reducing the complexity of border controls and paperwork, of being more risk-based, of better using data and relying more on trust. Lots of things that are great. But the more I’ve learned about the detail, the more cautious I’ve become.
“There’s no time for trial and error or contingency planning. Nor does it address the old issue of EHPs doing more work with products of animal origin at the border. This was formerly prevented by EU rules, but is now a possibility.
“It also fails to address the critical issue of the ‘white van trader’ who drives over on the ferry as a ‘private’ citizen, but acts as a commercial one, bringing meat from unknown and potentially unsafe origins, largely unchallenged. Our border will still be ‘leaky’ if this isn’t solved.”