Last minute government changes to new Brexit border controls, set to launch tomorrow (31 January), will add ”significant” time and costs to critical just-in-time supply chains, Logistics UK warned this week

The warning follows the government’s sudden and unexplained reclassification last week of fresh fruit and vegetables as “medium risk” goods for border inspections, causing confusion for businesses preparing for the new border controls and raising the spectre of long lines of lorries at the border as fruit and vegetable supplies are checked.

The move has prompted Logistics UK to call for urgent clarification from government about what businesses need to do to ensure trade can continue to flow smoothly under the new Brexit border controls.

Speaking ahead of the introduction of the first stage of the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), Nichola Mallon, Logistics UK’s head of trade, said: ” In selling the BTOM to industry, the government stated that 90% of all sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) commodities – those of plant or animal origin - are low risk, meaning they wouldn’t require an Export Health Certificate, be subject to physical checks or hit with a higher import charge. This change in classification will add significant time and costs to this critical just-in-time supply chain.”

Mallon said logistics businesses have been pressing government for clarity on how border checks will be done on freight from the EU since the Brexit vote.

She added: ”With only days until the first stage of the BTOM is to be introduced, why is the government providing conflicting and confusing information that will slow down the preparedness of the UK’s businesses to trade effectively with their EU suppliers?” 

The reclassification of fresh fruit and vegetables was announced last week (24 January). DEFRA stated that it was changing its classification of how fruit and vegetable imports will be handled after 31 October 2024, meaning they will be subject to physical checks before being passed to cross the UK border.

Since then, the government has rowed back, stating that some fruit and vegetables from the EU are “temporarily being treated as low risk” and that “further information related to the categorisation of fruit and vegetables from the EU will be available shortly”.

Logistics UK said that no rationale has been provided for this reclassification of fresh produce or any further detail given. Mallon warned that this confusion is preventing businesses from preparing effectively for the country’s new trading relationship with the EU.

She added: ”Logistics businesses are already struggling with rising inflation, as they operate on particularly narrow margins. These increased costs can only add to inflation and at a time when food inflation remains high.   

“Our members have kept the UK stocked with goods throughout the pandemic, and have worked tirelessly to prepare for a post-Brexit world. They should not be given conflicting information and kept in the dark until the eleventh hour.

”Our members deserve better from government. We are seeking urgent clarification on this issue and for decisions on all outstanding issues to be made public, including the import charge government will apply at its border control posts.”