The government is banking on major food companies to find a digital solution to the Brexit border crisis, The Grocer has learnt.

Talks with large suppliers and retailers, as well as industry trade bodies, began last week, after Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg’s decision to delay the imposition of physical border checks on imports until the end of next year.

Ministers have reportedly sent out a request for ideas to allow a “digitised, simplified and proportionate” system that would slash the amount of red tape and delays feared from import controls.

Many in the industry would like to see a system of auditing that would streamline import controls by allowing trusted companies with approved practices faster flow through ports such as Dover.

“We would like to see some sort of equivalence arrangement,” said British Frozen Food Federation CEO Richard Harrow.

“With the sophisticated cross-channel supply chains we have, you would have thought it would not be beyond the wit of man to come up with a solution rather than having vets manually checking health certificates.”

FDF head of international trade Dominic Goudie said: “It is important the UK government works with industry to design a new, modern and innovative border system which brings genuine benefits to businesses consumers.

“As part of this, it’s critical that real changes are made to the way sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) certification is completed, rewarding trusted and high standard traders and making groupage far easier.”

However, concerns have been expressed that such a solution could prejudice against smaller companies, even if it is agreed by the EU.

“One of our main concerns is that we don’t just come up with a solution that suits the big boys but that also works for the SMEs,” said Harrow.

Another source said they believed ministers were pinning their hopes on the industry to provide technical solutions to both the ports issue and how to solve the deadlock on checks on goods to Ireland, which has the seen the breakdown of the government in Northern Ireland.

“The government is calling for volunteers to help design the process.

“They seem to be counting on industry to conjure up some sort of magic that will somehow get them out of jail at the ports and in Northern Ireland as well.

“It just shows how rudderless they are.”

Last month Rees-Mogg warned it would have been an “act of self-harm” to impose the checks as planned in July, estimating it would have hit business with £1bn a year in extra costs and led to even bigger food price inflation.

However, there has been a growing backlash about the delay, the handling of which has been described as “shambolic”.