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England to delay SPS checks until January 2022 – updated

[ March 11, 2021   //   ]

The Government says it will delay Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks on food and agri imports from the EU by six months to give businesses more time to prepare.
The checks originally scheduled to start in July will now begin on 1 January 2022 while the requirement for health certificates has been delayed from April to October.
The government said it would help companies in dealing with the Covid pandemic.
The move follows the similar pushing back of checks on imports into Northern Ireland from Great Britain, a move that has sparked a threatened legal challenge by the European Union.
Customs import declarations will still be required, but the option to use the deferred declaration scheme, including submitting supplementary declarations up to six months after the goods have been imported, has also been extended to 1 January 2022.
Safety and Security Declarations for imports will not be required until 1 January 2022.
The delay applies to English ports only. Controls and checks on SPS goods are a devolved matter but the Cabinet Office said it would continue to work closely with the devolved administrations on their implementation, in particular with the Welsh Government on their timetable for completing supporting Border Control Post infrastructure in Wales.

Director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), Robert Keen, said: “It’s no surprise that the government has extended the deadline for the introduction of checks and customs declarations on imports to the UK from the EU. The experience of our members since 1 January has clearly shown that large sectors of the trading community have not been prepared for the changes in processes brought in by phase one of the Border Operating Model. We have expressed significant concerns regarding phases two and three of the Border Operating Model; and various Government departments have been unable to provide satisfactory answers to many of these.”
Keen added: “One of the most significant unresolved problems to date relates to Delayed Declarations, something that BIFA has repeatedly warned is a regime that invites non-compliance. Extending the option to use the deferred declaration scheme, including submitting supplementary declarations up to six months after the goods have been imported, to 1 January 2022, just adds to the real danger of non-compliance.
“It was no surprise to hear that Government was considering the unilateral application of grace periods by the UK on EU to GB trade, so today’s decision is welcome, but equally not surprising.
“The news that government will continue to engage extensively with businesses to support them to adjust to the new requirements already in place and to prepare for the new requirements to come is also welcome. But, actions speak louder than words, and of late, other than departments that BIFA deals with on mainly operational matters, Government has not been talking to trade and the Border Protocol Delivery Group has not held any meetings recently.
“Today’s announcement is clear evidence that political decisions have been made previously that, as we have repeatedly stated, have paid no regard to how visible international trade and the frontier works and what can actually be controlled. 
“It is also proof that the uncertainty caused is of no use to anyone involved in managing the UK’s visible international trade.”


British Ports Association chief executive Richard Ballantyne welcomed the move, saying it was “a positive step to keeping trade flowing. This is excellent news and we welcome the government’s pragmatic decision. Much of the infrastructure being built to facilitate these border controls is unlikely to be ready by July so this move enables ports to prepare better for what will be a major change in our trading relationship with Europe.
“We had asked the government to consider this extension and so are delighted that Ministers have acted. This will enable our trade to continue to flow fluidly until the new facilities are complete.
“Of course there is much to do and once completed these border processes will introduce major changes at ports but this extension goes a long way to helping ports and the logistics industry get ready.”
But the chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, Tim Morris, said that his members would be disappointed by the Government’s last minute change of plan. He explained: “It was always a challenging timeline but the Government has repeatedly stressed that the 1 July deadline was fixed. Operators building facilities on their own ports have laid concrete and put up steel frames to be ready by 1 July. Some pragmatism could have been welcome. But from the perspective of many large port operators a sustained delay is unnecessary and disappointing in terms of border infrastructure delivery. We will be looking to talk urgently with Government about contracts that have been signed and costs sunk to meet the July 1st deadline.”
Logistics UK’s European policy manager Sarah Laouadi said: “This delay will ease the administrative burden on logistics organisations currently working to supply the UK through COVID-19 lockdowns. Today’s announcement acknowledges the challenges and mounting compliance pressure created by multiple Covid-19 lockdowns and regulations across different European nations. By moving the deadline for the introduction of extra import formalities on goods coming to the UK, the government is providing more time for businesses and authorities to adapt to the upcoming extra requirements, for example by training staff, designing robust business processes to interact with new IT systems and agreeing a new allocation of roles and responsibilities with their supply chain partners. This will protect the UK’s highly interconnected supply chain to keep the nation supplied with the goods and services it needs.”
But it was imperative that governments and industry now work hand in hand to make the best possible use of this extra time, to raise the level of readiness for checks both in the UK and in the EU. Logistics UK is pushing the UK government for a much bigger focus on end-to-end provision of guidance to ease the import process and enhanced engagement with traders, but also hauliers, on both sides of the UK’s border.

FTA Ireland (FTAI) likewise welcomed the extension of trade easements for imports into Great Britain from the EU but called for urgent action from the Irish government to do more to protect Irish businesses’ interests in the longer term.

General Manager Aidan Flynn said that FTAI members are particularly keen for government to address the challenges surrounding the duplication of information required by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) when moving goods across the border. Despite the information – Movement Reference Numbers (MRN’s), commercial invoices and details of the load – submitted through the Automated Import System (AIS), the same detail has to be submitted to HSE separately, which significantly reduces operational efficiency and places additional time and financial pressures on the hauliers and customs agents. FTAI is also calling for a suspension of Safety and Security declaration requirements and for integrated IT systems to be developed in such a way that all state agencies can access the relevant information swiftly and efficiently.

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