Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

Britain facing cheese ‘blockade’ in fears of Christmas shortages

Britain is facing a “blockade” on cheese and meat products from Europe as new Brexit border checks are set to go live in November. The extra red tape, intended to “protect UK consumers and businesses”, will mean that cheese and meat selections will be “severely reduced” for the two months running up to Christmas. A vet will have to sign off on all imports of “medium risk” food, including unpasteurised cheese, and both fresh and frozen meat from November 1.

The checks, which are mandatory under both the terms of the Brexit trade deal and World Trade Organisation rules, were last delayed in April this year.

But after Whitehall’s initial plans for border controls were dismissed as unworkable, officials came back with the new model last month.

Ministers involved plans to finally introduce safety checks that have been delayed since Britain left the EU at the start of 2020.

Shane Brennan, the chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, warned the controls would make it much harder to bring some goods into the UK.

 

“We’re going to see EU-based cheese and meat suppliers finding on November 1 that they can’t fulfil their Christmas orders,” he told the Telegraph.

“It’s going to come as a massive shock to the system, and there will be paralysis as a result while everything has to reset.

“We’re not talking about shelves being empty. We’re talking about the choice being severely reduced, particularly in the first eight to 12 weeks.

“Some goods will not be available at all in the UK at first, and then they will be much more limited in supply and much more expensive.”

He called for the Government to rethink their plans, arguing that the need for veterinary checks was “a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem”.

“We’re putting our food supplies at the mercy of German Polish and Dutch vets, who have no interest in whether it gets to us or not,” he said.

“It’s a step back to the 1950s in terms of the types of the supply chain options we have, in terms of getting hold of goods from Europe.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Brexit opportunities minister, has argued repeatedly in Cabinet that the UK should draw up a much less stringent system.

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But some sectors, notably the farming industry, have pushed hard for checks to be brought in on goods arriving from the EU to protect their production lines.

They claim it will save businesses £400 million a year, compared with the original plan, and create a “world-class” digital frontier.

The new system, however, is still expected to cost businesses £600 million more than the status quo and it will not be fully implemented for 18 months.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, a Cabinet Office minister, said the new model would ensure Britain has “the most effective border in the world”.

“We are protecting UK consumers and businesses, while using tech and data to remove burdens wherever possible,” she said.

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