The NPA has warned that the Government’s decision to phase in import controls from the start of next year will lead to unequal treatment of UK and EU producers.
The Government has opted for a phased introduction of controls on imports when the Transition Period ends in January 2021 in ‘recognition of the impact of coronavirus on businesses’ ability to prepare’. This represents a change of heart from In February, when Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said full import controls were ‘necessary’ from the start of 2021 to keep UK borders ‘safe and secure’ and to collect the appropriate taxes.
The announcement means companies will be able to defer customs forms and tariff payments for six months, with some physical checks delayed to July.
The new border controls will be introduced in three stages up until July 1, 2021. The stages are:
From January 2021: Traders importing standard goods will need to prepare for basic customs requirements, such as keeping sufficient records of imported goods, and will have up to six months to complete customs declarations. While tariffs will need to be paid on all imports, payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made. Businesses will also need to consider how they account for VAT on imported goods. There will also be physical checks at the point of destination or other approved premises on all high risk live animals and plants.
From April 2021: All products of animal origin (POAO) – for example meat, pet food, honey, milk or egg products – and all regulated plants and plant products will also require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation.
From July 2021: Traders moving all goods will have to make declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs. Full Safety and Security declarations will be required, while for SPS commodities there will be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples: checks for animals, plants and their products will now take place at GB Border Control Posts.
Mr Gove also announced a new £50million support package will boost the capacity of the customs intermediary sector providing businesses with further support ahead of the new processes taking effect in July 2021.
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NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “While the phasing in of import checks will help businesses that import goods from the EU to adapt at a very difficult time for the economy, we hope this is not setting a precedent.
“One of our key Brexit asks has always been equal treatment of exports and imports and we will have a situation, for six months, where there are less stringent checks on imports than will be faced by UK exporters. We could be once again facing a situation where Government are allowing major difficulty in UK pork being exported to the EU.”
NPA senior policy adviser Ed Barker said the announcement highlighted the need for the Government to secure a ‘light FTA’ and tariff agreement with the EU by January 1.
“Otherwise it is going to be a very difficult choice – impose low tariffs, import lots of food and cause huge damage to your domestic farming sector OR maintain tariffs, including on EU imports, and face major prices rises for consumers,” he said.
“Assuming, there is an agreement on tariffs, there is also the question of whether the tariff collection will be even. For EU imports of UK goods, duties will be demanded straight away as the EU is set up to do it, whereas, according to this announcement, UK importers can defer it, which will give EU producers a big advantage on day one.
“Similarly, there will be light touch inspection on EU imports, but this wont apply the other way.”