Anybody involved in the British food industry felt relief last week after the government informed us of an additional delay of six months to the introduction of import border checks.

Clearly port infrastructure and customs systems are quite a way off completion with serious worries that plans to implement full border checks from the 1st of July 2021 have left our retail supply chains and businesses unable to cope.

The new deadlines say that pre-notification export health certificates are required for animal origin products from the 1st of October 21, and that physical checks to begin at the border including on animal and plant products along with requirements for safety and security decorations from the 1st of January 22. March 2022 physical checks are to begin on live animals and low risk plant products.

This new schedule should be a problem solver, but businesses need to ask themselves how they make the most of the extra time they’ve been granted.

The Amco team have heard reports that the British ports are probably the most relieved by this recently announced delay. For example, Portsmouth have regularly raised a hand saying that the critical border control post would not be ready for this summer, and that they would not be able to out the full range of checks.

British Ports Association CEO Richard Ballantyne is reported as saying. “For the ports themselves, everything should be ready by January. The question is: will everybody else be ready?”

Other issues do not just apply to British systems. EU veterinarian surgeons, for example, are going to have their work cut out because from October 2021 all goods of animal origin such as meat and cheese will also require a house certificate signed off by a certified vet before they’re allowed in the UK from Europe. And we understand there is a shortage of Vets.

Issues are also greater than capacity. Amco have it reported, border officials in different EU countries have made totally different interpretations of some of the new rules. For example, some border controls have rejected paperwork because the ink wasn’t the right colour!


The urgency is on all businesses in the sector to use these extra months to prepare. We have seen statistics from an Aldermore survey in December that indicates almost half of SMEs made no Brexit preparations at all and that 43% of small retail and food businesses put their lack of Brexit planning down to COVID-19 and the pandemic, when the reality is more likely that many have not fully understood the scale of changes.

So ports now have extra months to establish their infrastructure, and SMEs more time to plan. The battle with Covid for most businesses will become easier to cope with so the question remains where are the final and complete government custom systems designed to make trade easier and more cost-effective?

HMG promised in 2020 that the goods vehicle movement service (GVMS) will enable our trucks to declare goods ahead of reaching the border. This was intended to manage traffic flow in a much more productive way. We know that GVMS is in place for N.I. and is operational. I think we are all hopeful in the government statement that they are confident they will be able to handle increased demand from January 2022 across all ports.

Concerns have been raised that Freight software suppliers have reported that implementation meetings on the systems have been suspended because of a timely HMRC restructure. This could also imply that HMRC are not ready themselves.
We should all be concerned about any potential software issues because we are all dependent on having efficient IT systems for customs that reduces visibility at the border. Potentially without that software in place, HMG will hold back on implementing full import checks.

For us, we see the announcement of the delays as a clear indication that customs systems are not ready. Many of our retail customers would have been ready for the previous deadline but if the software and the ports aren’t then it may be relief all round.

Many BRCGS members and others in the retail industry are simply not well enough prepared. Amco are BRCGS storage and distribution Global Standard accredited and also specialists in customer clearances and all things import and export. The sign over our door says ‘here to help’.