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EU-Great Britain Import Controls

Volume 690: debated on Thursday 11 March 2021

On 31 December last year, the UK left the EU’s single market and customs union. This was the biggest change in the UK’s trading relationships for decades. The Government have always been clear that this meant change for business and for citizens, including new processes and requirements.

The first phase of such changes came in on 1 January. The Government have put in place the staffing, infrastructure, and IT to deal with the situation. Thanks to the hard work of traders and hauliers, we have not seen anything like the generalised disruption at our ports which many predicted, and supply chains have shown themselves to be robust.

However, the Government recognise the scale and significance of the challenges businesses have been facing in adjusting to the new requirements, at the same time as dealing with the impacts of covid-19.

Last June, we announced a timetable for the phased introduction of controls on imports from the EU into Great Britain, to ensure businesses could prepare in a phased way. This timetable was based on the impacts of the first wave of covid-19. We know now that the disruption caused by covid-19 has lasted longer and has been deeper than we anticipated. Accordingly, the Government have reviewed these timeframes.

Although we recognise that many in the border industry and many businesses have been investing time and energy to be ready on time, and indeed we in Government were confident of being ready on time, we have listened to businesses that have made a strong case that they need more time to prepare. In reviewing the timeframes, we have given strong weight to the disruption which has been caused, and is still being caused, by covid-19, and the need to ensure that the economy can recover fully.

We are therefore announcing today a clear revised timetable for the introduction of controls, as follows:

Pre-notification requirements for products of animal origin (POAO), certain animal by-products (ABP), and high-risk food not of animal origin (HRFNAO) will not be required until 1 October 2021. Export health certificate requirements for POAO and certain ABP will come into force on the same date.

Customs import declarations will still be required, but the option to use the deferred declaration scheme, including submitting supplementary declarations up to six months after the goods have been imported, has been extended to 1 January 2022.

Safety and security declarations for imports will not be required until 1 January 2022.

Physical sanitary and phytosanitary checks for POAO, certain ABP, and HRFNAO will not be required until 1 January 2022. At that point they will take place at border control posts.

Physical SPS checks on high-risk plants will take place at border control posts, rather than at the place of destination as now, from 1 January 2022.

Pre-notification requirements and documentary checks, including phytosanitary certificates will be required for low-risk plants and plant products, and will be introduced from 1 January 2022.

From March 2022, checks at border control posts will take place on live animals and low-risk plants and plant products.

Traders moving controlled goods into Great Britain will continue to be ineligible for the deferred customs declaration approach. They will therefore be required to complete a full customs declaration when the goods enter Great Britain.

Controls and checks on sanitary and phytosanitary goods are of course a devolved matter and we continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations on their implementation, in particular with the Welsh Government on their timetable for completing supporting border control post infrastructure in Wales.

We will continue to engage extensively with businesses to support them to adjust to the new requirements already in place and to prepare for the new requirements set out above so that they can continue to trade successfully under the new arrangements.