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Post-Brexit food checks could be much fairer

Government needs to review recently introduced legislation

There is a fairer way to implement the Common User Charge, which was launched last week.

Simon Sutcliffe, Customs partner said:

On Tuesday 30th, April, the often-delayed implementation of the final round of post-Brexit checks on foodstuffs and items of plant and animal origin was introduced by the government to protect Britain’s biosecurity. This is undoubtedly a worthwhile development to protect Britain’s farming communities and domestic supply chain. But the user charges accompanying it, although supposedly capped at £145 per health certification, are unfair and penalise small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

The charges are levied regardless of the size of the importer or frequency of their consignments entering the UK. The charges are also levied even if a consignment is not checked. Perhaps a better solution would be to only levy the charges if a consignment is subject to these checks and base these checks on weight and volume of movements.

Additionally, using a more risk-based approach and allowing importers to quickly become a reliable and trusted importer (outside of the much-hyped accredited trader schemes) of these types of goods and hence not automatically become susceptible to these charges, would generate a better appreciation and goodwill of how important biosecurity is to the UK’s food sector.

Sadly, these smaller importers are proportionately worse off in respect of these charges than larger importers who can apply certain economies of scale and more readily will need to pass on these costs to consumers. The UK needs to protect its native food producers and its environment. However, penalising those SMEs that add so much food diversity, quality of produce and interest to the food sector is short-sighted.

Initially only applying to movements of these goods through Dover and the Eurotunnel, these checks and charges will form the template for other ports around the country as we progress through 2024. Although charges are supposedly capped at £145 per health certification, traders in this sector are already faced with a bigger administrative burden, costs and charges – this additional burden may be too much for many smaller businesses.

Would you like to know more?

If you have any questions about the above or would like to discuss your specific circumstance, please get in touch with your usual Blick Rothenberg contact or Simon Sutcliffe using the form below.

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