We are already conducting some checks on live animals, with full documentary checks and physical checks being conducted at the premises of destination. We plan to introduce some documentary checks on products of animal origin next month and then begin some physical checks from July onwards, and also to introduce similar checks on plant products later this year. Recruitment of staff by the port health authorities is at an advanced stage.
On Tuesday, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee heard from a series of our fish and meat exporters to the EU who are struggling with the paperwork system imposed by the EU and its border officials. One exporter in Brixham needed over 70 pages of paperwork for one consignment of fish. When we start making checks this summer, we could insist on 140 pages of paperwork for EU imports, if we wanted to. However, could we, in our mutual interest, negotiate with the EU a digital system to make it easier for our businesses both to export and to import?
Unlike the European Union, we have taken a pragmatic approach to phasing in border controls, so that we can protect business supply chains and UK consumers, but when we do start to introduce those export health certificates, they will be certificates that are of a similar form to those of the European Union, since they are derived from retained EU law. I understand the point my hon. Friend is making, but we should also remain conscious that the primary focus of these checks is to protect food standards and animal health. Over time, the European Union may diverge from British law or may suffer variable enforcement between member states, and the UK needs the ability to protect British consumers and to operate food safety surveillance of other EU member states.