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UK delays post-Brexit food checks on EU imports until end of 2023

LONDON — The U.K. is postponing checks on imported food and fresh products from the EU until the end of 2023, as it announced a review of the post-Brexit regime.

The controls were due to be introduced in July this year, but the government said Thursday that the review will look at how to implement the remaining checks “in an improved way” and that its conclusions will be published in the fall, with the new controls regime coming into force by the end of next year.

It marks the fourth time Britain has delayed the introduction of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks on EU imports. Ministers justified previous delays by citing the need to give businesses in the EU more time to adapt to the new requirements, and for ports to build the necessary infrastructure.

Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said businesses will now be able to focus on recovering from the pandemic, tackling global supply chain issues and ensuring new costs are not passed on to consumers.

“It’s vital that we have the right import controls regime in place, so we’ll now be working with industry to review these remaining controls so that they best suit the U.K.’s own interests,” he said in a statement.

And Rees-Mogg added: “We want the process for importing goods from the EU to be safe, secure and efficient and we want to harness innovative new technologies to streamline processes and reduce frictions. It’s precisely because of Brexit that we’re able to build this U.K.-focussed system.”

Controls introduced in January on the highest risk imports of animals, animal products, plants and plant products will remain in place, the government said.

Parts of the logistics industry had called for more time and less burdensome requirements as the checks loomed.

But another delay will have financial repercussions for U.K. ports, most of who will need to recoup operating costs for the border infrastructure they’ve already built to carry out the checks, according to the British Ports Association. Ports normally do this through levying a charge on importers — but that’s not an option in the event of another delay.

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