MPs on an influential Westminster committee have expressed “deep concern” that the UK government has further delayed implementing checks on food imports from the European Union.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has written to George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, describing the news that import checks on animal products are to be delayed for. Fourth time as “lamentable”.
Mandatory “sanitary and phytosanitary” (SPS) inspection checks were imposed by the EU on animal products imported from the UK as from 1 January 2021, immediately following the end of the Brexit transition period.
In contrast the UK Government deferred checks on products coming into the UK several times over the past year, and in September announced that SPS checks – which also require environmental health certificates (EHCs) would not be imposed until 1 July 2022, rather than 1 January as previously stated.
The UK Government’s updated “Border Operating Model” published on 18 November, however, revealed a further delay. SPS checks on some categories, including meat, will be imposed from 1 July but checks on dairy products will not come in until 1 September, and checks on fish products will be delayed until 1 November.
EFRA Committee Chairman Neil Parish wrote in his letter to the Secretary of State: “This new timetable – assuming it is not further delayed – means that certification and checks on composite products and fish products will not be introduced until nearly two years after the end of the Brexit Transition Period, which we consider to be a lamentable delay.”
By not applying the same rules to imports from the EU as apply to the UK’s exports, the Committee argues, the Government has failed to ensure a level playing field.
The Committee is concerned that: “The continued absence of checks on EU POAO imports:
- undermines the competitiveness of British seafood and meat businesses in their home market
- creates incentives to relocate factories and jobs to the EU
- increases risks around food safety and biosecurity
- reduces the incentive for the European Commission to negotiate on SPS checks and controls
- weakens our negotiating position with the EU; and
- limits the spectrum of measures we can take if necessary.”
In the letter, Neil Parish calls for an explanation regarding the latest delays, and adds;
“The fact that the timetable has been revised four times to date gives us little confidence that the latest schedule will be adhered to, and we are concerned that the Government’s apparent lack of prioritisation for this vital issue may mean that import checks are not introduced next year either, and maybe not in 2023.”