Imminent change

Since leaving the EU, the UK government has operated transitional biosecurity arrangements, including one called Place of Destination. After a number of postponements, the scheme is finally being withdrawn on April 30 to make way for the long-awaited Border Target Operating Model (BTOM).

This will redraw the map for traders, legislators and consumers alike, including a number of far-reaching modifications to the way the border will be managed. It marks the start of a shift away from EU standards to a home-grown hodge podge. In its day, Place of Destination allowed businesses to do their own product checks at a time when UK border facilities were either not available or still under construction.

DEFRA’s own description is an opaque blend of jargon and legalese: “The PoD scheme not only afforded flexibility to businesses as they adjusted to the new requirements following the end of the transition period, but also allowed the UK government time to thoroughly design BCP infrastructure and processes, maintaining frictionless trade, while protecting GB biosecurity.” The present outlook is not encouraging.

On Monday, March 12, the EFRA Select Committee met under the chairmanship of Dr Neil Hudson to discuss the ongoing shortage of vets to carry out routine health checks on inbound food products. The UK’s chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss told the committee that when the UK left Europe there was a shortage of vets in the order of 11%, and, that to her present knowledge, this was still the case. This sounds odd, since the demand for routine veterinary validations for food imports is rising steadily. Westminster has known for years that the food industry was facing a skills gap. A House of Lords committee warned of this in 2017 [click link to see context] and the idea that demand could be static is frankly a non-starter.

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