Delays to post-Brexit food checks necessary to ensure port readiness, says CIEH

22 September 2021, Ross Matthewman

CIEH supports the UK Government’s decision to delay imposing checks on food imports from the EU, highlighting the need to use the time to address serious issues about the future regime.

Last week the UK Government announced that it was to again delay the implementation of post-Brexit border controls on phyto-sanitary and sanitary checks for imports from the EU, citing the disruption of global supply chains caused by COVID-19.

Measures, such as the requirement to pre-notify British officials about agricultural and food imports from the EU will now start on 1 January 2022, rather than on 1 October this year. Also, the requirement for EU firms to get export health certificates before sending live animals and animal products to Britain would be put back to 1 July 2022.

The EU has implemented full checks on UK goods since the start of this year.

The Government’s decision comes amidst a backdrop of concerns about shortages of some products in shops and supermarkets, and a fall in the number of lorry drivers, putting further pressure on supply chains.

There has been a mixed response from environmental health professionals working in ports across the UK. Some have welcomed the extra time to put suitable arrangements in place and to avoid a cliff edge. However, there is also a sense of disappointment in the delay in some ports as preparations were already advanced and extra staff hired in anticipation.

The full implications for home-based businesses who already need to comply with EU rules for Third Country Exports is also of concern, as this may cause an unfair advantage for goods entering UK as they are not yet subject to any reciprocal controls.

Tony Baldock Head of Port Health Ashford said:

“The lack of qualified staff to undertake Export and Import Controls is seriously causing problems in the EU and the UK and has been blamed in part as the reason for further delay. This matter could be easily addressed if environmental health professionals are recognised as equivalent to EU colleagues performing Official Veterinarian (OV) roles concerning food and feed control.

Ironically, whilst the EU are struggling with staffing Border Control Posts (BCPs) many EU qualified OVs are employed in the UK at BCPs already. The recognition of environmental health professionals as equivalent in food sanitary and phytosanitary controls would be an excellent way of supplying additional resource and boosting numbers at a critical time”.   

Kate Thompson, CIEH Wales Director, said:

“On balance the delays are probably sensible given the need to build more border control posts, address the skills shortage crisis and ensure businesses are ready.

The mixed response from our members working in ports across the country shows the disparate level of readiness from port to port. Some places are reporting that they are simply not ready for these controls to be implemented.”

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