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UK Brexit Agri-foods customs controls new delays

Scheduled 30 Apr 2024 UK-EU customs checks delayed again

The UK government is to delay for a sixth time some meat, dairy and plant product customs EU import checks. These were scheduled to come into effect on 30 April 2024. The checks are part of the UK’s exit from the EU Customs Union which happened on 1 January 2021 following Brexit on 31 January 2020.

The government is reported as not being ready on border systems and will only introduce a limited range of checks on high-risk goods.

Aug 2023: UK Agri-foods pre-notification and documentation border controls confirmed 5th delay to 30 Apr 2024

The UK government’s latest Border Target Operating Model today has announced another delay to import checks on animal and plant goods from the EU (and rest of the world). The last plan was for fully sanitary and pohytosanitary border checks and pre-notifications on a range of animal and non-animal produce from between 1 October 2023 and April 2024. Health certification on imports of “medium-risk” products were due to start in October with physical checks beginning in January 2024.

The UK government has now agreed to a delay of three months for the introduction of remaining sanitary and phytosanitary controls, as well as full customs controls for non-qualifying Northern Ireland goods, which will now be introduced from January 2024. To give stakeholders additional time to prepare for the new checks, further controls have a revised timetable. These include checks on medium risk animal products, plants, plant products and high risk food (and feed) of non-animal origin from the EU, implemented in April 2024, and safety and Security declarations for EU imports, implemented in October 2024.

The reason of this delay is being cited as giving more time for businesses and port operators to adjust; plus the fear of the new checks’ costs being passed onto the consumer whilst inflation is still high. The UK government is likely prioritising controlling this over border controls in the run up to the next national election – likely due towards the end of 2024.

The controls were legislated for in 2021 at the time of Brexit in the border Target Operating Model. However, they have been repeatedly been postponed. EU controls on UK exports to the region have been in place since 2021 – creating an unfair advantage for EU exporters to the UK.

April 2022: 4th delay in UK Brexit import controls

The cost of living crisis, Russian invasion of Ukraine and ongoing border delays  mean the latest round of post-Brexit customs checks has been delayed from 1 July 2022 to October 2023 the UK government has confirmed today, 28 April 2022. The controls on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) goods (like cheese and meat against diseases such as swine fever) were originally scheduled for 1 January 2021 when the UK left the EU Customs Union following its exit from the EU after 31 January 2020.

Next round of phased Brexit border controls

Following the end of the UK’s Brexit transition period from 1 January 2021, there has been a phasing in on the UK-side of import and export controls to ease the changes from the UK leaving the EU Customs Regime. This imposed customs controls and potential tariffs on goods movements between the UK and EU for the first time.

The phased introduction of safety and security controls had already been delayed from 1 April to 1 October, starting with additional agri-food products will require pre-notification and documentation. This was then shifted to July 2022 due to delivery chain problems. The major Brexit customs declarations and tariff rule change still came on 1 January 2022  with the imposition of full import controls and declarations. This includes the ending of the deferred import declaration easement.

Full UK customs checks and declarations came into force on 1 January 2022.

WTO rules broken by UK?

This means EU imports continue to enjoy preferential treatment from the UK. Under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, this is lawful until another WTO member – an upset non-EU state – files and wins a compliant. This can typically take five or more years, so unlikely to happen given the short term nature of this arrangement.

New customs declarations and border checks deadlines

Under the UK’s Border Operating Model, which sets the rules for customs procedures following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, importers of goods into the UK could defer their import declarations until 1 January 2022.

The latest revised timeframes, changing phases 2 and 3 of the Border Operating Model, announced this week are as follows:

Customs procedures Previous date Revised date
Prenotification on goods of animal origin and other high-risk foods 1 April 2021 Late 2023
Ending of deferred import customs declarations 1 July 2021 1 January 2022
Safety and Security Declarations 1 July 2021 1 October 2024
Sanitary and Phytosanitary border checks and pre-notifications on a range of animal and non-animal produce 1 July 2021 April 2024
Border checks live animals and low risk plants and plant products. 1 July 2021 January 2024


Controlled goods are excepted from the above timetable. Full customs declarations are required, and full checks apply today.


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