Move follows reports in the press suggesting a delay, which Defra refuted

The EFRA Committee has written to Defra secretary of state Steve Barclay to “encourage more timely and transparent communication with stakeholders regarding [the Department’s] approach to SPS import checks”.

There's been confusion around the implementation of border checks

There’s been confusion around the implementation of border checks

Committee chair Sir Robert Goodwill made the move following reports in the media last week that suggested the new import checks and inspections regime would not commence in full on the planned implementation date of 30 April.

Those reports were rebutted by Defra, which stated that “checks are commencing from 30 April and, as we have always said, the medium and high-risk goods posing the greatest biosecurity risk are being prioritised as we build up to full check rates and high levels of compliance.”

‘Delay in all but name’

However, the committee’s letter to Barclay stated that ”although your department’s response to the media reports affirms that checks will commence from 30 April, the Defra presentation reportedly states that you plan to initially set the rate of checks to zero per cent for all commodity groups. We are concerned that this is a sixth delay to the implementation of SPS import checks in all but name.”

The committee’s letter asks Defra what a ‘graduated’ or ‘light touch’ approach to the 30 April measures looks like in practice, and what percentage of new SPS checks on imports will take place from 30 April in each risk category.

The letter also asks when the measures will be scaled up to their intended capacity, and what barriers remain to implementing any or all checks on 30 April.

The committee additionally asks the department what impact any delays to the expected checks will have on goods being imported from non-EU countries.

‘Confusion and frustration’

The committee’s letter acknowledges that ports and business have experienced confusion and frustration, and states it is essential that the “Department urgently takes steps to communicate the changed arrangements to businesses and the public to build confidence in our incoming border controls and reduce disruption.”

The committee asked Defra to reply to its letter by Tuesday 30 April.

Goodwill said: “Given the high importance of a robust import inspections regime, and the serious concerns expressed by stakeholders to date, I have written to the Defra secretary of state to ask for a clear and unambiguous explanation by the department as to how import checks will be rolled out from 30 April.”