Import checks on EU food start Jan 2024 after repeated delays

Post-Brexit border checks on imports of European food and fresh produce are due to commence on 31 January 2024, the cabinet office has confirmed, some three years after the UK formally left the EU.

Following four previous delays, it had been expected that the new checks on paperwork would finally come into effect on 31 October 2023, with physical checks three months after that.

See also: Post-Brexit border checks ‘will drive up food prices’

But the new timetable, set out in the government’s Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) means new export health certificates will only be need for medium and high risk food products from 31 January 2024.

Physical inspections will start on 30 April 2024.

This is despite the fact the UK has faced full sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks on its food exports to the EU since January 2021. 

The new framework, drawn up in collaboration with the Welsh and Scottish governments and which details how post-Brexit import controls will work, aims to make it easier to move goods internationally without compromising security.

“Wet” signatures on documents will be replaced by digital signatures that will carry equal legal weight, to speed up the process at checkpoints.

Businesses that regularly transport goods into the UK can also apply for “trusted trader” status and be subject to fewer checks.


NFU president Minette Batters said that the repeated delay to introducing the new system was “hugely frustrating’’ since British farmers had “faced the full reach of EU controls on exports for the past three years, while the EU has enjoyed easy access to the UK marketplace”.

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (Aims) was also angered by the further three-month delay.

“With the government already recognising the risk to the UK from animal diseases such as African swine fever, avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease, as detailed in their recent Risk Register, we would have expected that such delays would not have been allowed to occur,” said Aims spokesman Tony Goodger.

The BTOM was, however, welcomed by the Institute of Export and International Trade.

“Crucially, removing the red tape and bureaucracy of physical paperwork is a huge step forward, doing away with the archaic system of wet signatures and physical paperwork that has been in place since the 1700s,” said director general Marco Forgione.

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