HomeBussinessUK minister says Brexit food checks will ‘have a light touch’

UK minister says Brexit food checks will ‘have a light touch’

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New border controls will start next week, sparking business fears over slow supply chains and cost increases

“We’re trying to cut down the amount of red tape and bureaucracy and so we’re continually trying to make sure we have a light touch,” UK exports minister Malcolm Offord told Bloomberg’s UK politics podcast. “This is why it’s been revised for the benefit of our companies.”

Last week, the British government insisted that the next, long postponed, round of Brexit border checks on plant and animal products will begin on April 30, after a report in the Financial Times claimed UK port authorities had been told that health and safety checks on EU imports would not be going ahead as planned due to fears of “significant disruption” and of a return to long queues of lorries at ports.

Physical checks on what are regarded as medium to high-risk foods entering Britain from the EU, including cheese, fish and meat, are due to be introduced at the end of the month.

EU food imports will incur fees as high as £145 (€169) and vets will begin carrying out spot checks on produce, a move hauliers and the food sector fears will slow supply chains and increase cost and waste if food spoils.

Last month, the Cold Chain Federation, a UK trade body representing companies in the supply chain, warned that many small artisan suppliers on the continent would stop exporting to the UK altogether as a result of the extra bureaucracy.

The government’s own modelling suggests the new checks will cause food prices to rise by just 0.2pc over three years.

Asked about the new checks, the UK exports minister said the Department for Business and Trade is “trying to avoid putting hurdles in front of business”. Industry groups and companies have warned the new checks may cause shortages in some areas and increase the cost of food to consumers.

Businesses in the UK will have to pay up to £145 per consignment for EU imports from Tuesday.

Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue met with Steve Barclay, the UK minister for environment and food, last week and they discussed the new UK import control regime for agri-food goods.

A spokeswoman for Mr McConalogue said both ministers underlined the importance of continued engagement between their departments to minimise any disruption to trade.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the next phase of border checks really only affects Irish operators using Britain as a landbridge to move goods to and from the EU and further afield.

The head of the Irish Exporters Association has called on the British government to clarify exactly what new Brexit border checks are being introduced at the end of the month.

“There is total confusion about this,” said Simon McKeever, the association’s CEO.

“From my communication with traders in the UK, they haven’t heard anything about this (delay). They are looking for clarity, having read the Financial Times article.”

Additional reporting, Bloomberg

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