New customs checks on medium-risk goods entering the UK: the fees will cost UK firms £330 million a year

The government is forecasting that new customs checks on medium-risk goods entering the UK have come into force, with the government forecasting the fees will cost UK firms £330 million a year.

The UK has started to implement much-delayed checks on some imports from the EU, as the latest stage in a phased series of new regulations as part of the country’s exit from the single market post-Brexit. As from the 30th of April, customs officials are checking documents at the border as well as performing physical inspections on shipments of certain food, animal and plant goods, with the exception of those arriving from the Republic of Ireland.

According to the government, these rules will help ensure the UK’s biosecurity, but traders have warned that the additional red tape involved will lead to delays at customs and significant extra costs.

Until the 30th of April, only the highest-risk goods entering the UK from the EU have been subject to checks, although health certificate documentation was introduced in January on EU goods including cut flowers and fresh produce such as meat, fruit and vegetables. However, the policy now extends to items deemed as medium risk. Among the checks are tests for pests and diseases that could impact the environment or food safety, and these involve visual inspections and temperature readings of goods.

Although at first only a small portion of shipments entering the UK is examined, this is expected to ramp up as traders become used to the rules.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, minister of state at the Cabinet Office, commented: “It is essential that we introduce these global, risk-based checks to improve the UK’s biosecurity. We cannot continue with temporary measures which leave the UK open to threats from diseases and could do considerable damage to our livelihoods, our economy and our farming industry.”

However, importers have warned of significant additional costs as a result of the new rules. For example, John Davidson, co-owner of flower company Tom Brown Wholesale, told BBC News he expects the new regime will cost his business between £200,000 and £225,000 per year. Meanwhile, the UK government’s own figures estimate that, with companies required to pay £29 per category, up to a maximum of £145 per consignment, this will cost British firms around £330 million per year.