CIEH demands clarity on border checks and inspections

08 December 2020, Ross Matthewman

CIEH has demanded clarity from the UK Government on the nature of border checks and inspections for food and agriculture entering the UK when the transition arrangement with the EU expires on 1 January 2021. 

CIEH has also urged the UK and the EU to finalise a trade agreement that will minimise disruption at ports and allow food supply chains to continue to flow. 

With the UK’s transition period with the EU expiring 1 January 2021, there is still considerable confusion across the UK’s ports on what checks and inspections will be required on agriculture and food products coming into the country from the EU, and what resource will be available to meet these new requirements. 

Once the transition period ends, port health authorities will be tasked with implementing a new three-stage process for produce arriving from the EU; documentation, identity checks, and physical inspections. However, with a trade deal between the UK and the EU still being negotiated there are too many unknowns for authorities to be able to properly prepare for the imminent change in regimes. 

There are also serious concerns about the capacity of port health authorities to undertake new inspections without a significant increase in resource and infrastructure, that has yet to materialise. 

Gary McFarlane, CIEH Director, said:

“We are less than four weeks away from the end of the transition period and far too many things are still up in the air. 

Environmental health professionals working in ports across the UK will very shortly be tasked with implementing an entirely new regime of checks and inspections for all agriculture and food produce entering the UK from the EU, and they have still not been told what this new regime will actually look like. 

What additional resource will be available to actually carry out the thousands of new inspections necessary? How are hundreds of new environmental health professionals necessary going to be recruited and trained in time? Where is the infrastructure to support these new checks? Many smaller ports will have to build up their services from scratch. How will they be supported? 

We have raised these issues repeatedly over the course of the UK’s exit from the EU, and there are still far too many questions. 

It is now time for the UK Government to provide absolute clarity so that port health authorities can use what little time there is left to prepare as best they can. The uncertainty has been allowed to continue for far too long. 

We are urging both the UK and the EU to come an agreement that will allow food and agriculture to flow through our ports as easily as possible, and to ensure our supply chains remain secure. 

Failing to do so, and failing to prepare, will only lead to chaos at our borders and heighten the risk of food fraud impacting our public health.”

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