The UK government has again announced that it has delayed the introduction of post-Brexit border control checks on imports from the European Union (EU).
The move means that physical checks of food imports from the EU, which was due to start in January 2022, will now take place from 1 July.
The new requirements for Export Health Certificates, which were due to be introduced on 1 October 2021, will now also be implemented on 1 July 2022, as well as the requirement for Safety and Security declarations on imports.
It is the second postponement to border checks since Brexit, after the government pushed back the original introduction date by six months from 1 April.
Although it means that food imports into the UK will be easier, since 31 December 2020, when Britain was officially out of the EU’s single market, UK food exporters have had to deal with paperwork demands and border checks.
A requirement to pre-notify border staff of arriving agrifood products has also been delayed until the start of 2022, from 1 October 2021.
Watch: Will there be UK food import delays after final Brexit deadline?
It comes as the British government on Tuesday blamed the changes on businesses facing pressure from the coronavirus pandemic and an ongoing supply chain strain.
In a written ministerial statement, Penny Mordaunt, the paymaster general, said: “The pandemic has had longer-lasting impacts on businesses, both in the UK and in the European Union, than many observers expected in March.
“There are also pressures on global supply chains, caused by a wide range of factors including the pandemic and the increased costs of global freight transport. These pressures are being especially felt in the agrifood sector.
“In these circumstances, the government has decided to delay further some elements of the new controls, especially those relating to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) goods.”
Meanwhile, Brexit minister David Frost said: “We want businesses to focus on their recovery from the pandemic rather than have to deal with new requirements at the border, which is why we’ve set out a pragmatic new timetable for introducing full border controls.”
Several business leaders and organisations have criticised the move, with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) saying the delay “would not solve the food shortages in the supermarkets” as this was the result of a shortage of lorry drivers.
Sean McGuire, CBI Europe director, said: “Additional time could help to relieve pressure on supply chains ahead of the traditionally busy Christmas period for retailers, especially given current headwinds.
“But the impact will be fleeting unless that extra time delivers progress on the challenges firms are facing. That includes both sides giving fresh consideration to business’ suggestion for a bespoke veterinary agreement, which could avoid the majority of checks and reflect the unique nature of trade between the UK and the EU.
“And where supply bottlenecks are caused by labour shortages, the UK should use the immigration levers within its gift to alleviate short-term pressures.”
Elsewhere, the Food and Drink Federation also said that all the big supermarkets importing fruit and vegetables from the continent were already prepared for the paperwork.