Source: Alamy

Long queues at Dover last weekend

The UK’s new post-Brexit border plan, published this week, could see food companies paying many millions of pounds to help the government recover costs for its new Brexit border posts.

After repeatedly delaying border checks for EU goods entering the UK, the government today published a draft proposal for the new “simplified” process due to launch later this year.

The new Border Target Operating Model builds on the previous proposals agreed as part of the Brexit trade deal.

Under the plans, any products such as meat or dairy eligible for physical inspections will be forced to pay between £20-£43 per consignment to help the government “recover operating costs which are necessary to undertake physical inspections at BCPs [border control posts]”.

“The charge would apply to all eligible consignments, whether or not they are selected for a BCP inspection,” says the document.

For now, this is an estimate as the “final rates will be determined following consultation”.

The plans have alarmed importers who now face huge new costs to help fund government spending. 

“It is a massive additional cost if you aggregate,” said Shane Brennan, CEO of the Cold Chain Federation. “We’re talking about millions to pay the government to fund its infrastructure and the people sitting in those booths.”

The new border model has also made changes to the process for many products. ‘Low-risk’ animal and plant products like oats and potatoes will no longer need export health certificates or phytosanitary certification, as initially planned.

However, ‘medium-risk’ animal and plant products like meat will still need the certificates from November and will go through physical checks from 31 January.

This means those sectors will still “probably be severely disrupted” due to the more rigorous checks at the border, said Brennan.

To try and ease the process, the government is planning a ‘trusted traders’ scheme to allow regular importers to avoid full border checks every time.

“We would welcome views on how our proposed approach …could be made as simple as possible for businesses to use,” it said.In recent weeks, customs agents have complained that existing border software is already causing issues at the border.

One customs operator said even under the new model, traders would still face queues because of the “appalling” Customs Declaration Service (CDS).

The operator fears the software – introduced as part of the wider Goods Vehicle Movement Service to enable trucks to cross the border smoothly – will cause further disruption once the full checks on EU goods come into effect next year.

The FDF’s head of international trade, Dominic Goudie, said: “We hope the plan to introduce certification and checks on EU imports will provide the necessary stimulus for both the UK and the EU to cooperate on improving the implementation of the [Brexit] trade agreement and to ensure the deal works as intended for SMEs.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The government is delivering on our ambition to have the world’s most effective border.

“Our new target operating model will reduce the need for checks for many types of goods.

“We are working with stakeholders and are taking a pragmatic approach to phasing in these controls to give business the opportunity to prepare.”

The government will allow for a feedback period from industry and other stakeholders before publishing a final version of the Border Target Operating Model in June.

Separate talks will be held with those moving goods from the Republic of Ireland into Great Britain.