UK business leaders have urged the government not to delay the next phase of Brexit border checks on food imports from the EU amid mounting pressure on supermarket supplies ahead of Christmas.
They said removing the bureaucracy on imports of products including meat, eggs and fish on October 1 would not solve the problem because the shortage is in truck drivers and not food supplies.
They would prefer the government to provide temporary visas to foreign truck drivers who left the UK during the pandemic and are unable or unwilling to return due to Brexit.
Further delays in control of imported EU products could keep inventory on supermarket shelves during difficult times for the UK supply chain, but supply issues are primarily due to staff availability.
Nick von Westenholz, director of trade and business strategy for the National Farmers Union, said delays do little to address these issues and long-term trade frictions.
Brexit rules require importers to notify governments and provide health certificates for animal foods and combination products, including lasagna, pork pies, chicken burritos and pepperoni pizza.
Some seafood or products made from honey, gelatin or snails will also be hit, according to gov.uk.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) says large importers like supermarkets are already ready for these tests, and the delay will only help smaller food suppliers that aren’t ready in France, Spain and other parts of the EU. .
A source at the large retailer told the government that the delay would not help as it added uncertainty.
Most of the members who do this on a regular basis have done a ton of work for it and have invested really sizable sums in training and gaining new relationships with customs officers and employees. FDF chief executive Ian Wright said all of this would be wasted to some degree if it didn’t start on October 1.
It also means that for UK business we do all the work and pay for exports, whereas EU business has an asymmetric relationship with no such checks or fees. Confidence is at stake, as the government has been adamantly stating that there will be no change in the past six months.
They are also concerned that the delay will hurt a large UK food supplier that has already suffered what they say is a catastrophic decline with a loss of 2 billion in sales due to European border bureaucracy.
According to industry reports, governments appear to be divided on the issue, with some departments considering suspending border checkpoints for the free flow of food, especially to import many winter imports from warm southern Europe or warmer climates. Industrial scale frozen food warehouses in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Two sources from the street retail sector said they wouldn’t be surprised if any delays occur.
The Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs held a meeting with industry dignitaries on Thursday, but did not comment on whether the rumored delay would be implemented.
Some expected Friday’s announcement, but believe a strong backlash from some industry sectors has caused the stock to stock up.
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