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Don't delay! Abolish Food Border Checks from the EU altogether!

A commentary on possible delay in food border checks to Great Britain from the EU.

According to the Guardian, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested that physical Brexit border checks on food imports from the EU, which were set to begin in July 2022, could be postponed for the fourth time due to concerns that European supplies of everything from cheese to ham will be depleted.

Many in the food industry, the food retail sector as well as customs brokers and freight agents would greatly welcome and appreciate this.

We are looking forward to reading about the revised timetable in the new border operating model. We - at Customs Manager Ltd. believe that the rumoured delay of inspections by up to nine months is reasonable and proportionate.

Of course, the United Kingdom, like the rest of the EU, must safeguard its borders against biothreats and pests. The EU has not postponed the implementation of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) inspections following Brexit; they have been in place in all EU border states, including France, Belgium, and Ireland, since the implementation of the Brexit divorce agreement on January 1, 2021. We can all recall the ramifications of this: Massive delays at EU and UK crossings, damaged British fish at EU borders, and other UK fresh goods in disarray as a result of a shortage of customs inspectors and veterinary professionals to certify if the products complied

The British Port Authorities want to prevent this at all costs, as do many food manufacturers in the EU, who are now being forced to get British Export Health Certificates (EHC) for their Italian Parma Ham or Polish sausage. A time-consuming endeavour that necessitates the presence of an Italian or Polish veterinarian to sign and seal a slew of sophisticated legal documents certifying that EU ham passes UK food safety regulations. These authorities must be compensated as well, reducing company margins and perhaps boosting prices on grocery shelves. And this at a time when inflation is approaching 10% and policy in Ukraine restricts some agri-raw inputs, driving up costs even further.

Furthermore, from the perspective of a customs specialist, the additional documentation is accompanied by costly and time-consuming IT systems, thus complicating the overall importation procedure.

With the new regulations, the whole import system has become so difficult that importing goods into the UK may no longer be feasible without expert assistance and a deep pocket or extremely valuable food products.

Let's show you and see if you yourself can still follow:

The IT system that certain food importers need is known as IPAFFS, which requires each importer of licensable agri-food products to be pre-notified to authorities at least 24 hours before arrival.

To do this, importers or their freight brokers must complete and submit the IPAFFS online application form for each shipment arriving in the United Kingdom. To do this, the EHC must be submitted to IPAFFS. The IPAFFS number can be created only when the application has been completed and rectified. This number is required in order to file the import customs declaration. This submission creates a new number known as the Movement Reference Number - abbreviated MRN. This number is required for entry into the GVMS system, which is the pre-lodgement customs declaration system used in smaller ports such as Dover and the Eurotunnel. The GMR - the goods movement reference number - is generated by the GMVS system. The ferry will not allow your driver to board or enter the tunnel if you do not have the GMR. What a horrible scenario! And it might all start with the requirement for an EHC and the usage of the IPAFFS system.

And for what purpose?

Today, the same Polish sausage that is OK to eat today requires a rigorous health certificate the next day. Is the wonderful Italian Parma ham we eat now a health risk tomorrow?

It simply does not add up.

Of certainly, the UK should secure its borders, enforce the WTO's SPS Agreement, and guarantee that the population is protected from toxic foods and chemicals, but a different solution should be found for the EU. One that eliminates the requirement for the SPS Border entirely.

Alternatives to the SPS border exist

The EU Veterinary Agreement with Switzerland guarantees that imports of live animals and animal products from the EU are subject to the same import criteria as those imposed by Switzerland on imports from third countries. The Agreement will allow Switzerland and each individual EU Member State to work together bilaterally to ensure equivalence in import rules and to facilitate commerce. The appropriate Swiss authority will be in charge of ensuring that these equivalency standards are met. The Agreement abolishes the need for an SPS border and controls altogether, whilst ensuring that the food we trade is safe to eat!

Let's go for that!

Alternatively, the European Union and New Zealand have signed a Veterinary Agreement, which facilitates the trade of live animals and animal products including meat and dairy. Some commodities are now subject to border checks due to health and safety concerns. The Veterinary Agreement will make it easier for New Zealand businesses to export to the European Union.

So, what's the takeaway?

It's straightforward. Without an SPS border, the food we acquire from the EU today is safe to eat. It is safe to consume because the EU has some of the world's strictest food safety rules. Why do we need to double-check it? If we have been eating food from the EU for the past 40 years and it has been OK, how come it will no longer be fine on July 1, 2022? It would be tough to explain this to a British customer. This is made considerably more difficult to explain to a British EU food importer.

Administrative costs and the possibility of error are exceedingly high, and not everyone is prepared. Why do we have to put our companies through this?

I'm reminded of the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't repair it."-

But, hey, that's what I believed in 2016, and I saw how well that turned out.

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