UK Delays Health and Safety Checks on EU Imports, Citing Risk of Port Disruption

UK delays critical health and safety checks on EU imports, citing risk of "significant disruption" at ports, raising concerns about food safety and biosecurity.

author-image
Shivani Chauhan
Updated On
New Update
UK Delays Health and Safety Checks on EU Imports, Citing Risk of Port Disruption

UK Delays Health and Safety Checks on EU Imports, Citing Risk of Port Disruption

The UK government has decided to delay the implementation of critical health and safety checks for EU imports at the country's ports, citing the risk of "significant disruption". The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has outlined a "phased implementation approach" where the rate of checks will initially be "set to zero for all commodity groups", essentially switching off large parts of the risk management system.

This decision comes as the new border controls have been postponed five times since 2021, leaving EU exporters free to send animal and plant products to the UK without checks. Defra has acknowledged "challenges" within its systems that could trigger unmanageable levels of inspections, overwhelming the ports.

According to a confidential government presentation, carrying out all the planned checks could trigger "significant disruption" at ports. As a result, the government will initially only apply the checks to high-risk goods, such as meat, and phase in the rest of the controls depending on traffic levels at different ports.

Why this matters: The delay in implementing health and safety checks on EU imports raises concerns about potential risks to food safety and biosecurity in the UK. It also highlights the ongoing challenges and uncertainties surrounding post-Brexit border controls and trade arrangements between the UK and the EU.

Business organizations have called for a further delay in the introduction of the new border controls, citing the need for "crystal clear communication" from Defra on its plans. The new checks were expected to cost British businesses almost £2 billion and exacerbate the ongoing cost-of-living crisis in the UK.

Defra has stated that it is taking a "pragmatic approach" to minimize disruption and protect biosecurity, but the decision has been met with frustration from the food logistics industry. The government seems to be admitting that Brexit is a "bad" idea and delaying implementing it in full for as long as possible, according to critics on social media who have called the situation an "utter farce" and a "shambles".

The final big change will come in October, with the government requiring safety and security declarations for medium- and high-risk imports, and introducing a single trade window to reduce the number of forms needed for importers. Goods coming from the island of Ireland will not require physical checks for now, but the government has said these will be introduced at some point after 31 October this year.

The UK government has emphasized its prioritization of goods posing the highest biosecurity risk and ongoing engagement with businesses to ensure a smooth transition while maintaining compliance and safeguarding biosecurity standards. However, the repeated delays and uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the new border checks continue to cause concern and frustration among businesses and industry groups.

Key Takeaways

  • UK delays health and safety checks on EU imports, citing risk of "significant disruption"
  • New border controls postponed 5 times since 2021, leaving EU exports unchecked
  • Defra acknowledges "challenges" that could overwhelm ports with unmanageable inspections
  • Delay raises concerns about food safety and biosecurity, highlights post-Brexit challenges
  • Final changes coming in October with safety declarations and single trade window