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Concerns mount over customs costs and clarity

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) remains concerned about the impact on small British businesses of new customs checks and charges that came into force on April 30.

The second phase of the UK’s Border Target Operating Model will introduce charges of up to £145 for imports of plant and animal products.

It will be the first time for decades that firms will have to pay such fees for EU imports of goods arriving in Great Britain and it is unclear how prepared many are for the change. 

Depending on the EU exporter’s classification, the charges will either be paid by it or the British importer, but either way the costs are likely be passed on to consumers.

There is also uncertainty around which consignments will be subject to checks, due to issues with border computer systems.  Only higher risk goods will be subject to checks initially, but there is no definitive list confirming which ones, nor any timetable for when other goods will be added.

Government figures show the UK imports just under 30% of all the food it consumes from the EU.

William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the BCC, said: “Firms face mounting confusion and uncertainty about exactly how and when the borders checks and costs will be fully implemented. It is crucial for business and trade that the government gives clarity on what is happening.

“While the Government did consult on the new charges being introduced it chose not to listen. The size of these costs shows scant regard to the interests of either businesses or consumers.

“A flat rate fee for bringing most animal and plant products into the UK is a hammer blow for small and medium sized importers. It’s also deeply concerning for retailers, cafes and restaurants.

“Importing a small consignment of goods with only five different meat, poultry, egg, milk or some fish products in the medium risk category will now face a bill of £145 per package under these proposals.

“The Government should immediately exclude firms in the trusted trader scheme from these charges which would give many smaller businesses some relief. But in the long-term, these checks and costs should be done away with by reaching an agri-food deal with the EU, something we have consistently called for.

“With interest rates still high, inflation well above its 2% target and supply chain disruption continuing to build, these costs and uncertainty are the last thing firms need.”

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