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Prices set to rise after government border checks announcement, warns Logistics UK

Tuesday 30 April 2024 marked the beginning of the long-delayed introduction of post-Brexit physical inspections of plant and animal imports from the EU. The spot checks will apply initially to products such as meat, cheese and some fish, and eventually to a range of vegetables and fruit. However, the government is taking a “phased approach” leaving the logistics industry in a state of limbo.

Significant new charges on some imported food products will also come into effect, threatening to reduce consumer choice and push up prices not long after UK food inflation fell from double-digit rates. The measures coincide with dire warnings about the possibility of price rises for bread and beer because of the impact of unprecedented rainfall on British grain harvests.

Logistics UK has asked the government for the following:

  • To urgently provide clarity on exactly what its phased approach to physical inspection means in practice and how many checks are being carried out and on what commodities.
  • To set out a clear timetable as to when checks will be fully scaled up and provide greater assurances that BCP facilities will have the capacity and capabilities, including staffing resource at all times required, to efficiently inspect and process loads.

Logistics UK’s Head of Trade and Devolved Policy, Nichola Mallon, says, “We know from experience, not least when controls were imposed on UK exports to the EU in 2021, the damage to businesses that increased border friction, costs and delays cause.

“That is why, throughout this whole protracted process, Logistics UK has been warning of the impact the new checks will impose, on smaller operators in particular, and already hard-pressed families across Great Britain.

“It is also deeply frustrating that, despite the new regime going live on Tuesday, our members still don't have all the business-critical details they need regarding how the new procedures are being implemented."

The new import charges will apply to plant and animal-based products entering the UK at government-run Border Control Posts, where a flat-rate of £29 or £10 per commodity code will be imposed. Despite a cap of £145 per Common Health Entry Document for medium and high-risk loads containing several different products (known as groupage), the cumulative charges of these new import controls will have a significant impact on the cost of doing business with the EU and will hit groupage operators and SMEs the hardest.

“Official communication to the industry has been lacking in the necessary detail required to provide logistics operators with the certainty they need to operate effectively,” explains Mallon.   

“The government has said it will prioritise high-risk products for physical checks and scale up checks thereafter, but we still don’t know what percentage of goods are expected to be checked from Tuesday onwards. And critically, there is still no clarity on the exact timeline as to when these physical checks will be scaled up to their intended capacity.

“As well as serious concerns about the cumulative cost of all these new processes on SMEs in particular, fundamental questions remain about the capabilities of the government’s systems and BCP facilities to process loads containing food and other perishable goods efficiently and at pace as soon as they arrive into GB. Any delays can ruin fresh produce, reducing its value and increasing wastage and this could cause breaks in the UK’s interconnected supply chain.

“The cost of these new systems will need to be paid somewhere in the supply chain and, despite our industry’s best efforts, it is impossible for our members to absorb all of these costs given they are already operating under tight margins.

“The likelihood, despite best endeavours by traders, is that this will result in higher prices for products on our local shelves. Government states that it is listening to traders but 81% of businesses responding to the government’s own consultation on its proposed charging structure at the border made it clear they will have a fairly or extremely negative impact on their businesses.

“Government has consistently asserted that the impact of the new checks at the border will only result in a 0.2% inflationary impact over the next three years, but despite repeated calls by Logistics UK, it has still not published the modelling behind the headlines in the interests of transparency and to give confidence to UK importers and consumers.”

Published On: 02/05/2024 14:00:00


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