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Government takes major step in improving biosecurity and preventing diseases

Introduction of new border controls will help guard against incoming diseases and pests while minimising burdens and costs for traders and consumers.

  • New border controls introduced today will help prevent the import of diseases and pests from animal and plant products
  • Series of new controls will minimise burdens and costs for traders and consumers
  • This is the first major step towards making the UK the most advanced border in the world

Today (31st January 2024), the UK takes a major step in improving its biosecurity and keeping the country safe from diseases. 

New border controls will come into effect for animals, plants and plant products imported to Great Britain from the EU. Products which present a ‘medium risk’ to biosecurity and health will now require export health certificates and phytosanitary certificates, where currently they enter the UK without them. 

As a global trading nation, diseases carried from imported animals, animal products, plants and plant products pose a serious risk to the UK’s biosecurity. Risk-based border controls are essential to manage this and ensure that we only import safe, high-quality products.  

Risk-based controls also mean that imports from all countries will be assessed the same way, where ‘high-risk’ products undergo necessary checks, and ‘low-risk’ products are imported more freely when it is safe to do so.

The controls coming into effect today are part of the Border Target Operating Model, which has been designed with traders and consumers at the forefront.

The model will minimise burdens for traders by making smart use of data and technology. Health certificates are being digitised and simplified, where currently they are paper-based and complex. The Single Trade Window will remove the need for traders to provide the same data multiple times, and Trusted Trader schemes will significantly reduce controls for our most credible traders.

Controls are being applied on goods from Ireland for the first time. However, thanks to the Windsor Framework, Northern Ireland (NI) goods will benefit from full and unconditional unfettered access, regardless of whether they move indirectly via Ireland. This will further bolster Northern Ireland’s place within the UK’s economic union and more squarely focus the benefits of unfettered access on NI traders.

The introduction of the Border Target Operating Model also sharpens the competitive advantage of Northern Ireland businesses, who now have unique unfettered access to both their primary market in GB as well as and the EU single market.

Government has worked extensively with traders both in the UK and in the EU to ensure the new controls and requirements are clear and that they have ample time to prepare. 

In the design phase of the Border Target Operating Model, Government consulted thousands of stakeholders through events, focus groups and through written correspondence. Since the model was published, there has been ongoing communication with industry. 

DEFRA has also conducted a Trader Readiness Survey which captures views from industry, which the department continuously monitors and uses to address concerns.

The controls coming into place today are the first major step the Government is taking to improve the UK’s border. Two further sets of controls will be introduced this year. 

From 30 April 2024, Government will introduce documentary, physical and identity checks at the border for medium risk animal products, plants and plant products imported to Great Britain from the EU except goods that enter Great Britain via West Coast ports. 

31 October 2024, Government will further simplify traders’ management of Sanitary and Phytosanitary requirements. Safety and Security declarations will also be required for all goods moving from the EU to Great Britain. These controls were announced in the Border Target Operating Model in August 2023, which sets out a risk-based approach to importing that will be introduced progressively.

These controls were announced in the Border Target Operating Model in August 2023, which sets out a risk-based approach to importing that will be introduced progressively. 

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, said:

Our aim is to have border controls which maximise the protection of the UK population from harms such as drugs and animal and human diseases while minimising the disruption to legitimate trade. The new UK system being introduced over the course of this year makes a huge stride towards meeting this objective. We have worked with traders and businesses  extensively to design the controls and will continue to listen to their feedback.

Biosecurity Minister Lord Douglas-Miller said:

Border controls on imported goods are vitally important to safeguard our high biosecurity standards, protecting the UK from potentially harmful pests and diseases, and maintaining trust in our exports.

These checks must also be proportionate and pragmatic - which is why we’ve taken a phased approach to implementing the new system and are working closely with industry to help them prepare.

The controls introduced today strike the right balance between trade and biosecurity.

Notes to editors:

  • The model will minimise costs for traders and consumers. Government analysis estimates that traders will save around £520m per annum under the new model, while the inflationary impacts on food for consumers will be, at most, less than 0.2 percentage points over a 3-year period. 

Devolved Administrations

  • The Scottish, Welsh and UK Governments have worked together to develop the new model for the import of Sanitary and Phytosanitary goods. Although enforcement of biosecurity controls are within devolved responsibility, it is in all our interests to have a coherent border control regime across Great Britain.

Risk categorisation

  • Under the new controls, animals, germinal products, products of animal origin and animal by-products will be categorised as high risk, medium risk, or low risk. Each category will have a proportionate level of control.
  • The categorisation is based on the inherent risk that the commodity poses to animal health, food safety and biosecurity, and public health, alongside the risks specific to the country of origin e.g. the prevalence of pests/diseases and the standard of official health controls. 

Controls introduced from 31st January 2024 (as published here):

  • Introduction of simplified export health certificates and phytosanitary certificates for medium-risk animal products and phytosanitary goods imported from the EU.
  • Beginning of documentary checks on medium risk goods from the EU, but there will be no new routine controls undertaken on these goods at the border, so initially there will be no charges for documentary checks or holds for inspection.
  • The removal of pre notification requirements for low risk plant and plant products from the EU.
  • Introduce pre-notification requirements for EU Sanitary and Phytosanitary goods that enter Great Britain via West Coast ports.
  • We will begin Certification Logistics Pilots and Accredited Trusted Trader Pilots Schemes as outlined above.

Controls introduced on 30 April 2024 (as published here):

  • The new checks at the non-West Coast border on medium risk EU origin goods will be introduced.
  • All goods to which import health controls apply will be required to enter via a point of entry that has the relevant Border Control Post or in the case of plants or plant products a Control Point designation for those goods.
  • Health certificates and routine checks at the border will no longer be required for low risk animal products for import from non-EU countries with the exception of intelligence-led interventions on low risk animal products.
  • The requirements for import controls on certain low risk plants and plant products from non-EU countries will start to be removed, where supported by risk assessments. Health certificates and routine checks at the border will not be required for such products.
  • Medium risk animal products will be subject to reduced levels of intervention at the border with identity and physical check levels being lower than now for imports from non-EU countries.
  • The introduction of Common Health Entry Documents (CHEDs) for all live animal, High Risk Food and Feed of Non-Animal Origin (HRFNAO) and animal product imports from the EU is required to support the introduction of identity and physical checks from the end of April 2024. CHEDs will replace the Import Notifications (IMPs) currently required for live animal, HRFNAO and animal product imports from the EU. There is currently no HRFNAO of EU origin listed so this requirement refers to where HRFNAO from outside the EU has been placed on the EU market and not been subject to any further processing. CHEDs for live animal and HRFNAO imports from the EU will be implemented by the end of November 2023, with CHEDs for animal product imports from the EU implemented by the end of January 2024.

Control introduced on 31 October 2024 (as published here):

  • The requirement for Safety and Security declarations for imports into Great Britain from the EU or from other territories where the waiver applies will come into force from 31 October 2024 as set out in the original Target Operating Model.
  • The UK Single Trade Window will reduce and simplify duplicate processes and data requirements, and reduce administrative tasks and transform user experiences at the border. It will deliver Safety and Security (S&S) functionality in Summer 2024 to meet the key BTOM commitment of delivery by October 2024. The Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) features of Single Trade Window are already in development which will be delivered across 2024 and 2025.

West Coast Timelines

  • At west coast ports, we will introduce health certification for medium risk animal products, plants, plant products and high-risk food and feed of non-animal origin as well as the removal of pre notification requirements for low risk plant and plant products for non-qualifying goods from 31 January 2024. 
  • The date for the commencement of physical checks for non-qualifying goods moving from the island of Ireland will be confirmed early this year and will not be before October 2024.
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