Import Controls The Government’s New Regime
Last week, the UK Government announced they will delay the implementation of further controls on imports from the EU that were due to be introduced on 1st July this year. Under the original plan, physical checks on meat were due to come in on 1st July, physical checks on dairy to come in on 1st September, and on all remaining foods including fish and composite foods on 1st November.
Government officials have said it is not the right time to be piling further costs on businesses, and the Prime Minister said he is generally in favour of minimal friction at all junctures between the UK and the EU. But today the government announced the overarching aim is to bring in a new customs import controls regime by the end of 2023. Their goal is to create the most efficient border in the world, and modernising the customs regime is an aspect to driving this strategy forwards.
IoD data from a targeted poll of international importers and exporters in March 2022 has demonstrated the friction already reducing trade at the border. 28% of traders are now importing less from the EU than they were five years ago, and 5% have stopped importing from the EU permanently. 40% said they have been finding the new import controls introduced in January 2022 challenging.
The main issues members have cited are the burden of paperwork, and the lack of knowledge across both side of the Channel. One member said, “the main challenge appears to be having accurate information on what is required, interpreting it correctly, and for staff at border controls to know what the rules are and how to implement them”. Another told us, “Most European suppliers we deal with are ‘refusing’ to carry out the necessary paperwork/stress involved in sending goods to us in the UK”.
This confusion has resulted in delays at the border, with members telling us consignments are being held up at customs for much longer than they were before January. One responded, “the total time taken for a pallet to be cleared is a month instead of a week earlier this year compared with pre-Christmas”.
Further data from our March survey showed 22% of importers did not feel they would be ready for the full controls were they to be introduced in July. What is perhaps more worrying is that 39% responded ‘don’t know’. Whether this is because they weren’t aware that changes were being introduced, or they weren’t sure of their preparedness as a whole, it is clear more needs to be done to support businesses as they trade under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), particularly from a guidance perspective.
Businesses will therefore be relieved they will not have to incur the further burden of full import controls that were due in July. This is particularly welcome given the significant pressures on business as a result of rising costs, the impact of the war in Ukraine, and recovery from the pandemic.
That being said, if EU companies are able to send goods to the UK without full controls while UK companies are subject to huge administration when sending goods to the EU, UK companies are at a competitive disadvantage on the continent when compared to their EU counterparts.
Restoring confidence across both sides of the Channel is an important priority for the IoD and our members. So while there will be a period of disparity between the UK and the EU until full import controls are implemented, we are encouraged that the government is listening to the to the genuine concerns of business trying to navigate post-Brexit borders.