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Government delays SPS checks yet again

[ April 28, 2022   //   ]

The government says it will once again delay introduction of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks on food-related imports from the EU into the UK, which were due to be rolled out in July this year. It now says that the checks will be implemented at the end of 2023.

This is the fourth time that SPS import checks have been postponed.

The government said it would wanted to avoid imposing new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports at a time of higher costs due to the war in Ukraine and rising energy prices.

While some business groups welcomed the move, the British Ports Association said that ports that had built border control post facilities for the checks could be left out of pocket if the government decided to introduce only a ‘light touch’ version of the checks.

Director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade, Marco Forgione, said that “Given the pressures on businesses and families at this time, we understand why the government has taken the step of moving the implementation of these checks into 2023”

“What is important now is that government works speedily and transparently towards a settled state for the border, so that traders, who have had to cope with so much change, can have the certainty they need to plan for the long term.”

Logistics UK said that the government’s move would be met with mixed reactions from the industry. While the principles underpinning this strategy – digitisation, better use of data and trusted trader schemes, and the creation of a Single Trade Window – have the potential to facilitate trade and support the UK’s importers and exporters, it is unfortunate that businesses had to deal with so many false starts, it said.

Head of international policy, Sarah Laouadi, commented: “Businesses need stability, clarity and certainty which constant delays and changes to the nature of future post-Brexit checks do not deliver. While we understand the government’s reasoning behind the decision today – aligning the checks with its 2025 Border Strategy to maximise optimisation and simplification of the new processes – it should not have taken years of wavering on the nature of checks for these goods and changing deadlines for their implementation. The government’s wavering approach comes at the cost of logistics businesses who have invested time and money preparing for the introduction of checks – that were postponed four times over the years – before the decision to take a different approach was reached today.”

She added: “Logistics UK is urging the government to make a clear – and final – commitment to a process and a deadline and ensure the necessary facilities, staff and processes are in place and ready to cope with the volume and patterns of trade by that deadline. Logistics UK stands ready to commit its expertise to help design a revised action plan and timetable that will not have to be shifted again.

“Going forward, we need to see closer monitoring of progress towards readiness for the government’s new approach, with review points, intermediary milestones and an alert system that triggers the allocation of extra government resources when a work package appears not to be on track. Logistics businesses are resilient and flexible; they stand ready to keep goods moving to and from the UK but need certainty to continue to trade effectively with the EU in the future.” 

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