The government has delayed introducing further checks on EU products entering the UK, fearing it will disrupt the supply chain and add to rising inflation.
New import controls on EU food products were due to begin in July.
The government says it would be wrong to “impose new administrative burdens on ports and disrupt risks” at a time of high cost due to the war in Ukraine and rising energy prices.
This is the fourth time since the UK withdrew from the EU that it has delayed EU import checks.
Brexit Opportunity Minister Jacob Rees-Mug said the government was reviewing how it would implement EU product checks and that “the new regulation will take effect by the end of 2023”.
He claimed that the delay would save British businesses up to খরচ 1bn in annual costs.
Mr Rees-Mug said it would have been “an act of self-harm” if the government had decided to go ahead with import controls.
He said the checks would bring “significant” price increases for people at a time when the government was “trying to reduce costs.”
This will include “71% increase – maximum level – retail price” for small deliveries like cheese.
He said: “You would add a potential cost of £ 500 to a consignment of fish fingers, which would then be passed on to consumers.”
Business groups have welcomed the move.
Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, said: “We are dealing with significant supply chain stress and inflationary costs this year, and this will only make matters worse.”
The Federation of Small Business states: “The imposition of full import controls this summer will be another burden for small companies that are already wrestling with new trade rules and rising operating costs.”
However, ports that have spent millions of pounds on checks have said they landed “with the official Brexit border U-turn bill.”
They are setting up a border control post that will allow checks on food and animal imports from the European Union.
But those checks were not only delayed, but could not be needed if a “light touch” measure was introduced, possibly meaning the new infrastructure would be “useless”, the British Ports Association said.
“This announcement is a major policy change, meaning that the benefits will effectively become white elephants, draining millions of pounds of public and private funds, not to mention the huge effort that has been made to get things ready on time,” said Richard Ballantine, the association’s chief executive.
He said the ports were “seeking clarification from policy makers on whether there would be any financial support or compensation for the ports and whether operators could bulldoze the facilities and use the sites for other purposes”.
The Major Ports Group, which represents the UK’s main ports and freeports, said they were “working incredibly hard and have invested 100 million pounds of their own money in the new border post” which could be the “white elephant of choice”.
Meanwhile, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the decision was “another blow to farm businesses that are already struggling with high inflation and ongoing labor shortages.”
“Our producers have to meet stringent restrictions on exporting their own products abroad, even though they have put our EU competitors at a constant competitive disadvantage, who are still enjoying an extended grace period that gives them access to valuable UK markets at comparative cost and burden. Free, ”said NFU President Minette Batters.
He added that the check on agricultural food imports was “absolutely crucial for the country’s biosecurity, animal health and food security”.
The British Veterinary Association also criticized the move, saying it was “not just in the face of common sense, but also in the UK’s commitment to higher levels of animal and human health protection”.
James Russell, the association’s senior vice president, said it had repeatedly warned that delays in veterinary tests could “weaken important defense lines” against the disease.