(Photo by Dominika Gregušová/ Pexels)

Businesses say newly introduced post-Brexit border checks are causing disruptions, jacking up companies' operating costs and passing on price hikes to consumers.

Under the five-time delayed post-Brexit border scheme, EU food and plant imports considered "medium risk" or higher are now subject to physical checks at the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel.

A £145 import fee applies to bringing a consignment of such products into Britain and will finance the operations of the Brexit border control posts. It is the second most critical phase of the scheme that has laid out Britain's exit from the European Union bloc's single market.

Richard McKenna, the managing director of Provender Nurseries in Swanley, Kent, says they've had to increase their product prices by two to three per cent to cover border check expenses.

"A truck can be in between 800 - 1500 pounds of additional costs, and that excludes delay on transport, the truck is waiting for an hour... three hours, there are additional costs on that truck time."

The Cold Chain Federation asked the Government to delay the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) checks again in April, with its chief executive Phil Pluck labelling it "a broken model."

"Without listening to the experts, the Government will seriously damage business confidence in the UK and add costs to consumers' weekly shopping."

According to government figures, over half of the food consumed in the UK is imported, with 30% of products eaten originating from the EU.

McKenna sources half of his plants from the EU and expects to increase his plant's prices by at least 5% once the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) is fully implemented.

"The real proof of the pudding will be when the Government increases the inspection rate while the supermarkets prepare for Christmas, and horticulture brings a lot in the other time. I don't think we'll see this rollout's real cause and effects for many months."

"We'll start to see cracks in the system and vulnerabilities in their ability to deliver on what they require."

William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the scale of the import costs shows that the Government has yet to listen to issues raised by businesses or consumers despite a consultation process.

He described the flat rate fee as "a hammer blow for small and medium-sized importers."
Bain said that in the short term, the Government should keep firms in the trusted scheme free from these charges to give many smaller businesses some relief.

He said ultimately, "These checks and costs should be done away with by reaching an agri-food deal with the EU."

Government ministers insist the measures will safeguard the UK's biosecurity by preventing diseases rampant in some parts of Europe, such as African Swine Fever.

It said the scheme costs are minor compared to the effect of a large plant or animal disease outbreak such as the 2001 Foot and Mouth disease outbreak, which cost £12.8bn in 2022.
Cabinet Office Minister, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, said:

"It is essential that we introduce these global, risk-based checks to improve the UK's biosecurity. We cannot continue with temporary measures that leave the UK open to disease threats and could do considerable damage to our livelihoods, economy and farming industry."

McKenna says, "It's going to hurt the businesses... We're checking the product multiple times for the route we've gone down, but there's also no guarantee that it won't achieve the biosecurity they wish. So is it overkill, or is it unnecessary?"

"You could argue that what we did in the past worked well, so why do we need to change that now?"