April 19. 2024. 9:45

The Daily

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UK to introduce new customs rules on EU goods from November

After more than two years of post-Brexit delays, the UK has promised to introduce a light-touch set of customs rules on goods from the EU later this year.

In a proposal published on Wednesday (6 April), the UK government said that the new regime would introduce a trusted traders’ scheme known as the UK Single Trade Window – a single digital gateway to reduce bureaucratic requirements for regular importers and exporters.

The new import controls will come into force in three phases between November 2023 and November 2024.

Export health certificates and phytosanitary certificates for some animal and plant products will be required from November 2023, while full documentary checks and physical and identity checks at the border will be introduced from February next year.

Other provisions include scrapping safety and security requirements for certain outbound freeport goods, outbound transit, and fish from UK waters landed in non-UK ports.

“It sets out how controls will be simplified, digitised and, over time, delivered through the UK’s new Single Trade Window,” the government stated, adding that the new regime will “minimise trader burdens and maintain border security while remaining aligned with international standards”.

“It will move us closer to our goal of creating the most effective border in the world by introducing an improved regime of sanitary, phytosanitary and security controls on imports.”

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which governs post-Brexit trade between the EU and the UK, ended the free movement of goods when it came into force in 2021.

However, while the EU immediately introduced customs checks on goods arriving in the single market from the UK at the end of the post-Brexit transition period in January 2021, the UK government has repeatedly delayed introducing its own controls on EU goods.

The proposal, which has been put out for consultation with businesses, also promises to provide support for food businesses that “will need to adapt their businesses and supply chains”.

The question of whether and how to introduce a customs and controls regime on imports from the EU has been open for several years.

In April 2022, the UK decided not to introduce the final set of planned controls on EU imports, pointing to the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as reasons for the delay.

However, it has also faced repeated delays in getting its new border processes ready, and the lengthy delays faced by travellers leaving the UK via the south-east port of Dover at the start of the Easter holidays are a reminder of the uneven processes at UK-EU border points.

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conceded that “new processes”, with French officials manually inspecting and stamping all passports as travellers left the UK, had caused a ten-hour delay to coaches wishing to board ferries from Dover.