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MPs doubt the British government’s willingness to implement border controls after Brexit



New plans for post-Brexit border checks on goods coming into the UK will deter many EU suppliers and push up food prices, a trade body has said.

MPs have cast doubt on the British government’s willingness to introduce post-Brexit border controls, due next week, arguing that a scaling back of its plans appeared to mean a sixth delay to their long-awaited introduction.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (EFRA) has written to the government demanding clarity on the exact nature of physical inspections of plant and food products. After it emerged that these could be significantly scaled back due to fears of border delays.

On Tuesday, the government will begin controls on imports of medium and high-risk plants and animals from the EU, as part of its Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) plan.

However, the Financial Times reported last week that large parts of the risk management system for all commodity groups would not be switched on initially, following concerns within the government that border systems would not be fully ready.

The government insisted checks would begin but said some would be delayed, with inspectors focusing on the highest risk products before scaling up to a more comprehensive regime in the future.

Robert Goodwill, the chairman of the EFRA committee, demanded clarity from the government on what the latest delays meant and details on what a gradual approach to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls would look like in practice.

In a letter to Environment Secretary Steve Barclay, Goodwill said it was clear ports and businesses were facing further uncertainty and were “confused and frustrated” about the implementation of these vital border controls.

He said: “There is broad consensus that a clearly communicated, phased implementation of SPS controls with clear, achievable milestones is a strategic and pragmatic approach to change.

“We are concerned that your approach, if reported, is the result of poor planning and delivery of the model.”

Goodwill added: “We are concerned that this is a sixth delay in the implementation of SPS import controls in all but name.”