© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Union Jack and European Union flags are seen ahead of the meeting of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 9, 2020. Olivier Hoslet / Pool via REUTERS / Fil
By Kate Holton
LONDON (Reuters) – The UK has postponed the implementation of some import controls for a second time after Brexit, stating that it would roll out the controls gradually over the next year instead of rolling them now when the industry's supply chains are under pressure.
The UK left the European Union's internal market in early 2021, and the immediate introduction of controls on UK goods to Europe has hit sales hard.
The logistics industry had warned that the introduction of import controls on goods entering the UK would exacerbate problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of truck drivers in the run-up to Christmas.
After the government delayed its introduction by six months from April 1, the government has now postponed the need for full customs declarations and controls to January 1, 2022. Security declarations will be required from July 1st next year.
Industry circles in the logistics and customs sectors said the government's infrastructure was unwilling to carry out full controls by October 1.
While the move is welcomed by some in the logistics industry, the food and beverage trading organization attacked the government for the late announcement. New food controls should come into effect in 17 days.
"The repeated failure to implement full UK border controls for EU imports since January 1, 2021 is undermining business confidence," said Ian Wright, head of the Food and Drink Federation. "Worse, it actually helps UK competitors."
The industry argues that European manufacturers can still sell to the UK without the added cost and hassle of a full customs border, but UK manufacturers can do the opposite. Food and beverage sales to Germany, Spain and Italy fell by around half in the first half of the year compared to 2019.
The government said it had put in place a new "pragmatic" schedule to give companies time to recover from the pandemic.
UK businesses and customers have complained in recent months that a shortage of labor in logistics, drivers and warehouses has resulted in lengthy delivery delays, with some supermarkets and restaurants struggling to stock a full range.
"Companies now have more time to prepare for these controls, which will be introduced gradually over the course of 2022," said Brexit Minister David Frost.
Britain opted for a full customs border with physical checks and tedious paperwork due to the nature of the divorce agreed with Brussels, and opted for full autonomy in its regulatory affairs as opposed to closer alignment with the bloc.
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