New UK – EU border controls now in place

Experts predict chaos with new border rules

Illustration: UK - EU border. Credit: Nerthuz/

New regulations that are now effective mark a pivotal moment in the UK’s post-Brexit era. But what implications will it have for businesses and the general public?

On Wednesday, January 31, the first stage of the UK’s Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) e=will come into effect.

This change will require export health certificates for plant and animal products imported from the European Union, with some experts predicting further confusion and chaos at the border.

This step represents the most significant alteration for importers since the UK’s departure from the single market three years ago.

New border regulations

Under the newly implemented Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), all imports of animal and plant products from the EU are now classified into three risk categories: high, medium, and low.

Health certificates are now mandatory for medium- and high-risk items before they can be brought into the UK.

  • High-risk items include live animals, certain seeds, tubers, and plants for planting.
  • Medium-risk items encompass cut flowers, plant parts like tomato cuttings, meat, eggs, non-pasteurised milk, and specific types of fish.

From this point forward, exporters of meat and dairy products to the UK must acquire a seven-page document from a veterinarian in the origin country, certifying the products are disease-free.

Similarly, plant products require equivalent certification from a plant health inspector. However, lower-risk items such as processed meats, cheese made from pasteurised milk, and some fruits and vegetables like cucumbers and asparagus are exempt from these extensive requirements.

Upcoming changes

The most consequential change is scheduled for April 30, when physical inspections at the border will commence for medium- and high-risk goods.

These inspections will occur at designated border control posts, including a new £147 million facility in Sevington near Dover.

According to the British Chamber of Commerce there are concerns about the vagueness surrounding physical checks of shipments. Nearly 30 per cent of the UK’s food is imported from the EU, according to government data.

William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the BCC said: ‘The Government is finally implementing major changes to Great Britain’s inbound border controls and customs checks stemming from Brexit, but there are still unanswered questions around its plans.

‘Especially, as businesses are already facing a tough start to the year, with container shipping prices quadrupling as the Red Sea disruption continues.’

The final major modification is set for October, introducing safety and security declarations for medium- and high-risk imports and a single trade window to simplify the import process.

Goods from the island of Ireland are currently exempt from these physical checks, but this is set to change after October 31 this year.

Economic Impact

The government acknowledges that these additional checks are likely to increase costs for businesses and consumers. An estimated annual cost of £330 million is projected, which could raise retail food prices by 0.2 per cent over three years.

However, this figure might be an underestimation. The Fresh Produce Consortium warns of a potential additional £200 million annual cost due to the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables in the medium-risk category from October.

Concerns are also raised about reduced consumer choice, with the Guild of Fine Food expressing their worries that smaller EU suppliers might cease UK exports due to increased bureaucracy.

Reason for the changes

The implementation of these controls stems from a legal necessity under World Trade Organization rules, which require equal trade borders for the EU and the rest of the world.

Additionally, these measures aim to protect biosecurity, preventing the importation of diseases like xylella in plants or African swine fever in pigs.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.


    • Charles

      03 February 2024 • 07:05

      Another “benefit” of Brexit…

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