Business group Logistics UK has urged the government to prioritise work towards a sustainable solution to post-Brexit import formalities to provide certainty for business. The call comes following the announcement that the introduction of health certification of imported products of animal origin (which include many food and drink items) has been pushed back from 1st October 2021 to July 2022.
As Sarah Laouadi, Head of International Policy at the organisation explains, its members have already worked towards two deadlines for the introduction of these formalities, and more delays heaps additional work to an industry already working at full stretch: “The government has rightly identified some of the challenges currently facing the logistics industry, from the lasting impact of the pandemic to increasing maritime transport costs. These, as well as the driver shortage, require vigorous and urgent attention. However, this second change of plan for import controls will add to the uncertainty and creates extra re-adjustment costs for the logistics industry.
“While there is relief in some quarters at the provision of additional time to prepare for new border processes, another deferment will cause instability for businesses already stretched by the impact of Covid-19. It also penalises those companies that invested time and money to progress their readiness journey as much as possible; these businesses now need the Government to confirm the last details about border facilities and systems to be able to complete the crucial ‘last mile’ of their journey.
“What our industry needs from government is a guarantee that this new timetable will be adhered to, and that the border control posts required for physical checks that have just been postponed to July 2022 will be in place, with sufficient resources and political commitment to make it credible. The UK’s supply chain with the EU is highly interconnected but it will be impossible to convince our European supply chain partners to do their part if the target they are aiming for is constantly changing.”
At the time of the first postponement of these controls, Logistics UK called on government to use the additional time available to best effect and provide business with the certainty it needs to plan its supply chains effectively.
Meanwhile, responding to the government’s announcement on border delays, Ian Wright CBE, Chief Executive, Food and Drink Federation, said: “Many food and drink manufacturers will be dismayed by the lateness of this substantial change. Businesses have invested very significant time and money in preparing for the new import regime on 1st October 2021. Now, with just 17 days to go, the rug has been pulled. This move penalises those who followed Government advice and rewards those who ignored it. As recently as yesterday, officials assured us that import checks would be implemented as planned.
“The repeated failure to implement full UK border controls on EU imports since 1 January 2021 undermines trust and confidence among businesses. Worse, it actually helps the UK’s competitors. The asymmetric nature of border controls facing exports and imports distorts the market and places many UK producers at a competitive disadvantage with EU producers.
“We welcome the Government’s acknowledgement that supply chains are under extreme pressure but this is to a large extent caused by labour and skills shortages in every part of the food chain. Government must put in place financial support to help prepare for these new deadlines of import controls – industry has invested three times in preparing, only to have wasted this money despite assurances from Government there would be no delay.”