Who will be left to pick up the pieces?

This is not the first time that the deliberate destruction of the British economy by the departing government has been discussed on this site, but we are in the final hours during which a national fiscal fiasco stands any chance of being resolved with any form of access to the original planning documents. It may well be that the origins of the UK’s stealth tax on food imports have already been shared with a shredder and the perpetrators will never be identifiable. Nor is there any guarantee that this would go any way towards clearing up one of the messiest episodes in British history. In the years since Britain left the European Union, it did not get round to establishing an integrated system for imports for years. Here is what DEFRA said in 2023: “Currently, imports from the EU and certain imports from Greenland, Faroe Islands and EFTA countries do not need to enter Great Britain via a BCP and are not subject to veterinary checks at the border.”  (Source: http://apha.defra.gov.uk/documents/bip/iin/vcap.pdf)

Just two months later, and Britain is rolling out its three-phase Border Target Operating Model (BTOM). (The label ‘world-beating’ is optional.) Lorry drivers arriving in Britain have not been impressed by the service standards they have encountered on  the ground (https://urbanfoodchains.uk/sevington-gives-cause-for-concern/), which is more of a hostile environment than a workplace.  

It is time for the British government to get its borders in order, implementing the Border Transfer (BTMO) and charging a border tax called the Common User Charge. This month, importers will receive their first invoices for Common User Charge (CUC), a sneaky way of removing nasty swellings from collective wallets. Importers of animal and plant products that would usually be considered for food safety checks can expect to pay over the odds for driving a lorry off a ferry at Dover to join the UK road network. Hauliers booking a DFDS one-way ticket online to Dover pay three pounds for this indispensable service, while lorries carrying grouped consignments of SPS foods face open-ended bills in the hundreds or low thousands for the same access. The simple explanation is that Britain is playing catch-up: the European Union had everything in place to trade with the UK as a third country the minute it ceased to be a member state. Britain was convinced that it would somehow avoid third-country status by negotiating a favoured nation package. There was not even a sketchy idea of what a post-Brexit customs system might look like. The years passed, conveniently putting off the awkward moment when Brexit would be complete.

DEFRA has gone from absentee administrator to nitpicking zealot overnight and is chafing over the accuracy of form-filling, notably for consignment detail on Export  Health Certificates (EHC). Hang on to your hats, here is a sample:

Continuous and/or deliberate non-compliance  

It has come to our attention, that some traders and logistics companies are making continuous and/or deliberate errors including:

mis-declaring goods as low risk when they are medium;

or as medium when they are high;

 not including a relevant Export Health Certificate (EHC) or Phytosanitary certificate.”

Or the consequences… :

Continued non-compliance within either the EHC or the CHED is not acceptable and will not be tolerated by Port Health Authorities (PHAs). Deliberate misdeclaration is a criminal offence.  PHAs will be actively looking to identify such behaviour.

Where there is repeated non-compliance or evidence of misdeclarations, the appropriate authority will take statutory action. This will result in goods being held at a Border Control Post (BCP) for a physical inspection, which may lead to the consignment being ultimately returned or destroyed at cost to the person responsible for the load.

Entering a conversation with a tone like that is doomed to become a monologue. Enough said. 

Above: the official line…
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One Comment

  1. Peter, a very intersting article! I wonder what will hapeen to the CUC come the imminent probable change in government?

    I was somewhat confused by this sentence:

    “Britain was convinced that it would somehow negotiate a favoured nation package Brexit that there was not even a sketchy idea of what a post-Brexit customs system might look like.”

    I may not be reading it correcly but there appears to be something missing. You may therefore need to edit it.

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