Beyond belief or beyond reason?

These are strange times. There are things going on that beggar belief and defy reason. Since leaving the single market, the UK has been developing an administrative structure to manage the country’s imported goods, the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM). There is no way that BTOM can be described as Brussels red tape. It has been drafted and implemented by the British government. So why is the British government taxing food imports of plant and animal products? Last week, the story was that importers would be charged for the running costs of Border Control Posts. This would be no more than GBP145 per lorry, we were told.

It appears that we were told wrong

When a haulier buys a ticket from Calais to Dover, the price now covers the journey as far as the outboard end of the loading ramp at Dover. From the dock to the UK road network, the price is dependent on what the lorries are carrying and how the paperwork is organised. For a single consignment load of any thing other than plant or animal products that qualify for SPS (Sanitary or PhytoSanitary Checks), the road is clear. For those carrying goods that do qualify for SPS tests, they will be charged Common User Charge (CUC), regardless of whether or not they are held for inspection. This is billed separately at GBP10 or GBP29, per consignment line, up to a maximum of five lines per Community Health Export Declaration (CHED). Inspections have always been charged separately and in addition to any other costs.

About two thirds of freight shipments coming into Britain share trailer space between a number of companies, who effectively go Dutch to spread the shipping costs of small and often varied consignments. Known as groupage, it used to be an economical way of managing transport costs. However, It would appear that there is no upper limit for the Common User Charge. Trade bodies are warning that shipments could generate CUC bills of up to GBP2000 for a single trip. This is a completely new randomised body blow for the logistics industry,.

After three years’ of false starts for carrying out routine safety checks on food imports, 2024 has seen two of the three phases of BTOM rolled out. The BBC spoke to wholesale florist John Davidson, who has seen around GBP 200,000 added to the annual cost of running his business, literally overnight. Talking of overnight, there is talk of closing government-run BCPs at 7.30 in the evening: for anyone in logistics, this is unthinkable. Anyone who has ever driven on the country’s long distance network will be aware that delivery vehicles are at their busiest in the small hours of the morning, as are the wholesale markets.

The measures announced last Tuesday (April 30) will send countless SMEs to the wall, whether or not they import food, just because the economy is being ripped apart. Not slowly, but in a confrontational manner. Passive aggressive is not a contradiction in terms, but a symptom of deep-seated anger.

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