The decision to delay strict new import controls on goods from Europe does not change the facts, businesses still need to prepare for this next phase of Brexit. Customs expert Arne Mielken explains how businesses can use the extra time to get ready.
Businesses are breathing a collective sigh of relief following the government’s eleventh-hour decision to delay the introduction of new customs checks on imports from the EU.
Many businesses have only just got to grips with new EU import and export rules, including complex rules of origin, that followed our departure from the EU Single Market in January.
Firms had been bracing themselves for more Brexit red tape with the introduction of new sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls on imports of animal and plant products, including so-called high-risk foods such as sausages.
These checks on imports, which were due to come into force from April, are being delayed by several months to give businesses more time to prepare for the increase in paperwork.
But this does not mean that business should relax ‘ they should take the extra time available to get ready.
From October 2021, exporters will need to have the correct documentation – including import forms and veterinary health certificates ‘ for each consignment bound for this country. If they don’t, or if forms are filled in incorrectly, it could lead to costly delays at ports and empty supermarket shelves here.
UK businesses therefore have a role to play in helping our European friends navigate these new controls, rules and systems. The Germans, French and other nations may be unfamiliar with our procedures, especially if we change our rules and systems, so any support UK Plc can provide will help them clear goods faster and minimise disruption and delays.
Businesses exporting to the UK will need a health certificate for most live animals and some products of animal origin. It’s a good idea to make sure that the business you’re importing from obtains the proper certificate in their own country.
The original certificate – not a copy – must travel with the consignment and they need to give you an electronic copy to upload to the Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS).
This is the UK’s new system for importing animals and animal products, as well as high-risk foods such as those containing pesticides or salmonella.
Remember that it’s up to you as the UK importer to use IPAFFS to notify customs about imports of such products into Great Britain. You need to submit your notification 24 hours before your consignment is due to arrive if it is coming from an EU country.
You can find more information on this here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/import-of-products-animals-food-and-feed-system
The process of choosing the right health certificate, arranging for a vet to inspect the goods, then completing the right export health certificate correctly, not to mention all the other paperwork, will be a challenge for many smaller businesses.
There are more than 100 health certificates to choose from, which is a bewildering number. You can find guidance from the UK government on this here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/health-certificates-for-animal-and-animal-product-imports-to-great-britain#products-of-animal-origin
Certificates must be stamped and signed several times by an official veterinarian. Bear in mind that the same health certificate may need to be duplicated in all the languages of the countries the goods travel through, which means yet more stamps and signatures.
For more information on export health certificates visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/health-certificates-for-animal-and-animal-product-imports-to-great-britain.
UK exporters of live animals and animal products into the EU need to register on the web-based Trade Control and Expert System (Traces), the EU equivalent of IPAFFS.
UK exporters can also find essential information on obtaining health certificates here:
But if you’re a UK importer, try offering a helping hand to your EU trading partner by explaining how to complete an export health certificate, for example, or by speaking to the UK authorities on their behalf and helping them register on UK systems.
You can also share information from the UK authorities including these webinars for food and drink importers: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/webinars-for-importers-of-food-and-drink-products-from-the-eu-to-great-britain
Costly delays can be avoided if everyone involved on both sides of the channel, both importers and exporters, obtain the right certificates, complete them correctly and notify the authorities in good time.
So my advice is to use this extra breathing space to get ready. That way, Brexit, the sequel may turn out better than many Hollywood movie sequels which often end in box-office disaster.