The UK government has announced further delays to checks on food and agricultural imports coming into Great Britain from the EU.  Requirements for pre-notification of food and agricultural imports were due to be implemented in October 2021 but the date has now been moved to 1 January 2022. Similarly, the implementation date for imposing obligations on businesses to obtain health certificates before moving live animals and animal products into Great Britain from the EU has been moved to 1 July 2022.

These changes are the latest in a series of shifting deadlines faced by GB food and agri businesses as a result of changes to checks, controls and labelling requirements following Brexit.  Whilst these delays give the sector further time to adapt to the planned changes to the regulatory landscape and border controls, they only apply to products coming into Great Britain.  Products moving from GB to the EU have been required to comply with pre-existing regulations for non-EU goods since 1 January 2021. 

The UK government says the delays are necessary due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and increases in the costs of global freight.  Many in the food sector, however, argue that further delays to the implementation of these trade barriers provide limited assistance in circumstances where there remains a severe shortage of lorry drivers and that they will instead simply give EU exporters a further commercial advantage.  

Regardless of these arguments, it remains the case that food and agri businesses in Great Britain continue to face the shifting sands of an uncertain regulatory regime.  They must manage ever-moving implementation dates in Great Britain whilst dealing with the certainty that goods they send to the EU must now comply with the EU regulations imposed on non-EU businesses.  Meanwhile, their EU counterparts continue, at least for the time being, to export goods to GB without facing many of the planned increased border controls or regulatory changes, and without an obligation to make changes to their labelling.  

All this suggests that GB food and agri businesses are not participating on a level playing field.   GB food businesses continue to face significant Brexit-related challenges whilst simultaneously grappling with the fall out from a global pandemic.  This is not an enviable position for many.  It makes it hard for businesses to plan for the future and challenging for those of us who advise them to help businesses manage the regulatory framework they must work within.