UK faces meat, cheese and cut flowers shortage due to 'disaster' new rule

Brexit border IT outages have delayed the import of perishable items to UK by up to 20 hours. Lorries carrying meat, cheese and cut flowers held up by new checks, with retailers rejecting some orders as a result of the hold-up.

Businesses have described the government’s new border control checks as a “disaster”. Dozens of lorries were held at the government’s control post serving Dover and the Channel tunnel for periods of between eight and 20 hours after the IT system went down.

A manager at the company, who preferred not to be named, said: “We were expecting maximum hold-ups of four hours, and, if they weren’t checked by then, they would be released." Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, they added: "This is a lot longer.”

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The managing director of a Polish transport company said the weekend had been a “disaster” for importers, resulting in a lot of angry customers. “There was huge disorder, and a lack of information about the status of the lorries,” he said.

Another said: “We have fresh products from Poland and eastern Europe, which can take two to three days to transport to the UK. If there is another delay of a day or two, it’s really too late to sell them to final customers.”

Nigel Jenney, the chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium, said: “There’s been several incidents like this in the last two weeks, and several much more minor issues. There is a huge concern factor. This is causing not just huge disruption, but it’s a huge cost for the sector.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “A power outage over the weekend affected one of the systems required to process imports. For the majority of vehicles at the border there were no significant delays, but we immediately activated contingency arrangements for affected vehicles, working alongside HMRC and Border Force.

“We are working at pace to resolve the issue and expect that systems will be returning to normal functioning soon. Since the introduction of checks, our teams have been working closely with traders to ensure checks are completed efficiently and swiftly.”