Government finally bites the Brexit bullet

Starting on 31 January 2024, the UK government is imposing full Brexit border controls on imports from the EU, having delayed them on five previous occasions.

This is three years after the UK left the EU’s Single Market, when the EU had no qualms in immediately imposing full border controls on goods from the UK entering the bloc.

But the UK government kept delaying border controls on goods coming to Great Britain from the EU because of worries about the complications, confusion, and costs for British businesses.

None of that has changed now that the government is finally biting the Brexit bullet.

According to a poll last October by the Institute of Export & International Trade, less than 20 per cent of UK businesses understood how the upcoming border control changes would affect them.

  • From 31 January, full customs controls of imports of fresh food such as meat and dairy products from the European Union comes into force.
  • From 30 April, the second phase starts, which will introduce more physical and document checks on animal products, plants, and foods of non-animal origin from the EU.
  • From 31 October, safety and security declarations for EU imports will come into force.

The UK imports most of its imported food from the EU.

How could anyone think that putting up barriers to most of our imported food would ever result in lower food costs?

The opposite will happen. More costs. More delays. More complications for British trade. Increased cost-of-living for British consumers.

Before Brexit, imports and exports between the UK and the EU were entirely frictionless without any border controls.

The National Farmers Union has also warned that new checks for young plants coming into Great Britain from the EU is likely to cause long delays at the border and could result in plants being damaged or destroyed.

UK growers are reliant on the EU for young plants that start life in countries such as the Netherlands before being imported into the UK for planting.

Martin Emmett, the NFU’s chair of the horticulture and potatoes board, told The Guardian:

“There is a concern that border control points can pose an existential threat to horticultural businesses in this country.”

▪ Since Brexit began for real on 1 January 2021, British exporters have had to endure complicated and costly customs barriers and delays to getting their goods to the EU, when none existed before.

▪ Now British importers will have to endure complicated and costly customs barriers and delays to getting goods from the EU to Britain, when none existed before.

Putting up barriers to trade with our most important customers and suppliers in the world – right on our doorstep – was a brainless Brexit idea that should never have gone ahead.

Another reason to ‘Get Brexit Undone’?

▪ The situation is different for Northern Ireland, which has unique friction-free access for goods in the Single Market.