New UK border checks on imports 'bring cost, confusion and frustration'

19 February 2024

New UK border checks on imports 'bring cost, confusion and frustration'

Supply chain leaders have warned of increased costs, confusion and frustration as the UK today introduces the first stage of its Border Target Operating Model (BTOM).

The BTOM requires imports into the UK that are designated medium- or high-risk to be accompanied by export health certificates.

Stage two, to be implemented on 30 April, will require these imports to receive physical checks at the border before being permitted entrance.

The British Retail Consortium’s director of food and sustainability, Andrew Opie, told The Loadstar retailers had been working closely with their suppliers to prepare for the post-Brexit BTOM.

Mr Opie said while he expected most “major” EU suppliers to be ready, he warned that the checks would create addition costs for retailers, “adding to the burden caused by increases in business rates and national living wage”.

Among the products in the categories requiring health certificates are meat and dairy produce and the majority of plants.

For port operators, this initial stage is of little concern, but with the implementation of physical checks just months away, they claim a lack of clarity from government has proved infuriating.

Portsmouth International Port, like many others, ensured its border control post (BCP) was operational by July 2022, when checks started to come into operation, before a series of delays and pushbacks.

City councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, cabinet member for the port, told The Loadstar the BCP was built in “record time to meet the government’s exacting standards and deadline”, but has “been sitting empty ever since”. He added: “The date for border control inspections has been postponed numerous times, with changes to the planned border inspections reducing the need for such a huge bespoke facility.

“And all through these stages we have been unable to recoup any of the costs to build such a high-specification facility that meets bio-security health measures.

“We’ve followed government guidance every step of the way, but answers remain unknown, such as the amount of goods that require checking, how the port will fund the significant running costs of a facility that needs lab-grade inspection rooms running to critical temperatures.”

Mr Vernon-Jackson said the “uncertainty” was also affecting shippers and it was “not beyond reason to expect that this could drive business away from the UK… and drive up costs for residents during a cost of living crisis”.

Richard Ballantyne, CEO of the British Ports Association, said “even at this late stage” there was information government needed to supply.

He told The Loadstar: “Ports are also looking to draw back some of the money it has invested in the BCPs from government. Our sector prepared these border facilities at speed to meet tight government deadlines, but they are not being fully utilised. Many now stand empty at significant expense to operators.”

By:Alexander Whiteman