Will post-Brexit food checks ever happen?


Will post-Brexit food checks ever happen?

Introduction: The UK government has once again postponed the implementation of post-Brexit checks and charges on food imports from the European Union (EU). This marks the fifth delay in planned changes to import arrangements for farm and food imports. The decision comes amid concerns about food price inflation, with the government acknowledging that these changes would add a modest 0.2% to overall inflation. The new checks and charges are scheduled to take effect at the end of April 2024.

Impact on Food Import Inflation:

  • The delay is a response to concerns about the potential impact on food prices.
  • The government has revealed that the extra red tape and charges will contribute to overall inflation, albeit by a modest 0.2% when introduced next year.
  • A “common user charge” on each consignment entering through Dover or the Eurotunnel and expensive vet approvals will contribute to increased costs for food importers.

Brexit Deal Implications:

  • These additional checks and charges result from the Brexit deal agreed with the EU in 2020.
  • Concerns are raised about a lack of a level playing field, as British exports face full EU controls while EU exports to the UK enjoy smoother passage.
  • Biosecurity issues are also a concern due to the reduced checks.

Industry Response:

  • Food industry stakeholders have referred to these changes as the “food import tax” and expressed skepticism about whether they will eventually be implemented, given their proximity to a potential general election next year.

Labour Party’s Position:

  • The Labour Party, if elected, plans to negotiate a veterinary deal with the EU to minimize these checks, citing precedents in EU deals with Switzerland and New Zealand.
  • The trade-off may limit the UK’s divergence from EU standards on issues like gene editing and fertilizers, as the party emphasizes maintaining high standards.

Uncertain Future:

  • The food industry is closely watching political developments and the possibility of reversals or further delays in implementing these checks.
  • A sixth delay remains a possibility, depending on political factors.

Conclusion: The UK’s decision to delay post-Brexit food import checks and charges, driven by concerns about inflation, is the fifth postponement of these changes. The food industry is apprehensive about the potential impact and political developments. The Labour Party, if elected, aims to negotiate a veterinary deal with the EU to minimize these checks while emphasizing high standards, but the situation remains uncertain.


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