Following statement today that the introduction of physical Brexit border checks on EU food and animal product imports will be delayed again and a new lighter touch regime introduced potentially in 2024, the British Ports Association is concerned ports that have invested infrastructure will be left to pick up the pieces. The industry will be pressing government for compensation immediately.
Sanitary and phytosanitary inspections at specially prepared borders infrastructure were due to be introduced in July. However the government has today announced that there will not be these controls until at least the end of 2023 but then a new revised light touch regime will be prepared, potentially meaning the newly built Border Control Posts will be useless.
Commenting Richard Ballantyne, the Chief Executive of the British Ports Association, the trade body representing UK ports that facilitate 86% of seaborne trade and most of the ports that have built Border Control Posts, said:
“This is quite an amazing development to say the least! Many UK port operators have built Border Control Posts in preparation for post Brexit checks and all were due to be ready. This announcement is a major policy change, meaning the facilities will effectively become white elephants, wasting millions of pounds of public and private funding, not to mention the huge effort there has been to get things ready in time.
Most ports will need to recoup some of their construction and operating costs for their infrastructure and this is traditionally done through levying a charge on importers. Ports have been recruiting staff to operate the facilities but now this needs to stop.
We are therefore urgently seeking clarification from policy makers if there will be any type of financial assistance or compensation for ports and also if operators can start to bulldozer the facilities and use the sites for other purposes.”
Currently the UK Government’s Border Operating Model outlines that Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks (which have been taking place in all EU countries that trade with the UK since the Brexit withdrawal agreement was implemented on 1 January 2021) were due to be introduced in July this year, although this has today been altered.
The processes would have involved physical inspections and checks of animal and plant products coming in from the EU, in line with the UK’s environmental health standards. These are carried out by specialist port health officials and designated facilities which ports have been finishing, some of which were funding through the Government’s Port Infrastructure Fund which was announced in 2020.