Delay of border control process ‘is a serious step back’ – NFU Scotland

NFU Scotland (NFUS) has slammed the UK government’s decision to suspend the introduction of new rules on imports from the EU to the UK as a “backwards step” that it must rethink.

The union has said that since the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with the EU was agreed on December 24, 2020 and came into force on January 1, 2021, Scotland’s agri-food sector attempting to export to the EU has toiled with substantial and costly bureaucracy and physical inspections.

It has resulted in friction, delay, losses and extra costs, according to NFUS.

The union has called for the simplification of the extensive sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) border controls that currently require lengthy specialist paperwork and frequent physical inspections on products of animal or plant origin going to the EU.

The cost and time currently levied by these compliance requirements present a severe hindrance to trade and have been hugely disruptive to the movement of food and drink products, NFUS also argues.

As part of the TCA, the UK government agreed to EU goods coming into the UK meeting limited SPS controls until April 1.

The UK government has announced that:
  • Pre-notification and export health certification for animal products are not required until October 1, 2021 and for low-risk plant and plant products until January 1, 2022;
  • Physical checks at UK border control posts will not take place on a range of agri-food products and high-risk plants until January 1, 2022;
  • Physical checks on live animals and low-risk plants and plant material will not take place at UK border control posts until March 2022.

‘A serious step back’

NFU Scotland president, Martin Kennedy said: “The UK government’s decision to delay the reciprocal border control process to January 2022 is a serious step back.

“The decision to delay has been taken without progressing essential negotiations with the EU to secure agreement on equivalence on sanitary and phytosanitary trade standards.

“That is critical if we are to alleviate the problems of asymmetrical trade affecting high value Scottish goods like seed potatoes.

While our exports of food and drink are facing new difficulties and costs in getting to Europe, the firms that we are often competing with in domestic markets are continuing to get a free pass to come into this country.

“The rules that should have been applied to imports on January 1, 2021 are now going to be a year late,” he added.

“The UK must quickly address its shortcomings in border control facilities and long-term arrangements that remove the legislative and costly stranglehold on Scottish agri-food sector exports to the EU must be prioritised, or we will simply continue handing a burden-free trading advantage to imports coming from the EU.

“Covid-19 has been disastrous across the globe, but it has focused minds on where and how food is produced.

The confidence in our food chains, and the support we have received throughout the pandemic must not be undermined by unchecked imports finding their way into our food service sector where origin and labelling of products are often limited.

“The UK government must rethink this backward step and ensure that exporters and importers are each asked to do the same,” he concluded.