Cross-party rural affairs committee disappointed at lack of clarity in government new border check measures

The cross-party parliamentary Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee says it remains concerned about the clarity and safety of government post-Brexit UK border measures, which were introduced yesterday (30 April).

The committee’s statement came after receiving a letter from Lord Douglas-Miller, the Minister for Biosecurity, Animal Health and Welfare at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), responding to EFRA queries about the new border controls.

Chair of the EFRA Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill, said Defra had confirmed in the letter that there would be a graduated approach to the introduction of new border checks from 30 April. But the state department could not clearly state when the measures would be scaled up to their full capacity.

“It is disappointing that they have been unable to provide clear answers,” he said.

Goodwill added that the committee remained concerned about the new measures’ capacity to safeguard against potential non-compliance which could take place between the point of entry at the Port of Dover and the border control post at Sevington, 22 miles away.

EFRA’s concerns came as some companies importing EU cut flowers and plants reported chaos at the border in Dover yesterday (30 April).

Speaking to the FPJ, Nigel Jenney, CEO of the trade body Fresh Produce Consortium, described the introduction of the new border measures as a “complete, very costly mess for both industry and eventually consumers”.

“Officially the border measures are being phased in, but it’s a mess,” he says. “We have members with complete opposite experiences: minimal impact, or waiting hours due to government IT issues.

“It’s a complete very costly mess for both industry and eventually consumers, which was totally avoidable if our proposed approach had been adopted by government.”

He added: ”It’s not too late to adopt and fast-track the FPC solutions which would save around £200m a year on UK businesses and hard-pressed consumers.” 

ITV News yesterday reported that port authorities in Dover were waving through imports arriving from Europe without the correct documents.

Defra meanwhile stated that its ”graduated approach” to new border controls would minimise disruption while protecting UK biosecurity.

“Competent authorities will be encouraged to take proportionate action on non-compliances identified which do not pose a significant risk to public, human, animal, or plant health,” Sir Douglas Miller said.

He continued: “Those commodities categorised as high-risk, which from today [30 April] see the relocation of their existing ID and physical inspections from destination to border control posts, will be checked at the percentages specified in the published Border Target Operating Model.

“From today, Defra expects remote documentary checks on medium-risk animal products will be undertaken at 100 per cent, and on medium-risk plant products from the EU at 3 per cent typically, as specified in the published Border Target Operating Model.

“We will build up to full ID and physical check rates to ensure a pragmatic and phased approach to both protect biosecurity and minimise disruption. Physical and ID checks for medium-risk goods are in place from today. Checks will initially focus on those commodities that present the greatest risk, and will build up to full inspection numbers over time.”

Defra added that the border control post at Sevington began operating on 30 April. “We have also completed testing successfully and are confident that any requirement to present their goods for checks will be communicated clearly to drivers.”