THE UK Government has quietly admitted that post-Brexit checks at the UK’s borders will increase inflation – despite Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s headline pledge to drive it down.
The admission came at the very end of a 1500-word press release put out by the Tory government on Tuesday, which confirmed that the post-Brexit border checks on food products coming from the EU would be delayed for a fifth time.
The first stage of the UK’s new border model, originally set for October, is now delayed to January 2024, with physical checks and other requirements coming in throughout the next year.
In January, when inflation was at 10.1%, Sunak pledged to halve the rate by the end of 2023.
In July, the UK’s consumer prices index (CPI) was at 6.8%, the Office for National Statistics reported.
Delaying the introduction of post-Brexit border checks until 2024 is therefore likely to help the Tory leader meet his pledge, even if the UK Government claims the impact is expected to be “small”.
Last week, the Financial Times reported the Tories had chosen to enact the extension as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt (below) wanted to delay the costs associated with the post-Brexit checks, which would add to food bills.
Goods from Britain have faced EU controls since it left the bloc’s single market at the start of 2021, but the UK has repeatedly put off checks in the other direction.
In the press release announcing the further delays, the UK Government admitted: “In developing the Border Target Operating Model the Government has been mindful of the small potential impact on inflation and has taken into account its firm commitment to bring the rate down.
“The estimated impact of the Border Target Operating Model on headline inflation is expected to be minor, standing at less than 0.2% across three years.”
Government acknowledges for first time that the imposition of now further delayed post Brexit checks on EU food and agriculture imports will increase inflation … though says it is “expected to be minor” at less than 0.2% across three years pic.twitter.com/OuNZ794vo3
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) August 29, 2023
The Cabinet Office’s “Border Target Operating Model” delineates the UK’s upcoming approach to safety and security controls on all imports, with a particular emphasis on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures for goods like live animals, plants, and animal products.
According to the revised timetable, starting from January 31, 2024, imports of medium-risk animal products, plants, plant products, and high-risk non-animal origin food (and feed) from the EU will require health certification.
By April 30, 2024, these items will undergo documentary, identity, and physical checks, while imports of sanitary and phytosanitary goods from other parts of the world will adopt a new risk-based approach.
From October 31, 2024, safety and security declarations for EU imports will become mandatory, along with a more streamlined dataset for imports.
SNP MP Richard Thomson (above), the party’s business spokesperson at Westminster, said: “This Tory UK government should be finding ways to support households through this tough cost of living crisis, instead they seem determined to make it as difficult as possible for ordinary people to cope.
“Brexit has been an unmitigated disaster for households and business right across Scotland – with every day that passes it gets much worse.
“And yet the Tories, and pro-Brexit Labour, are happy to ignore the reality of the mess their Brexit has caused, at the expense of ordinary people.
“With both the Tories and Labour working hand in glove to keep Scotland out of the EU and impose massive disadvantage and uncertainty on our businesses and people, it’s clear we need an alternative.
“Only the SNP are offering voters a route to rejoin the European Union through independence for Scotland."
Tory peer and minister Lucy Neville-Rolfe said: “Our Border Target Operating Model will ensure more efficient trading for businesses, protect against biosecurity threats and further crack down on illegal imports such as firearms and drugs.
“By making maximum use of data and new technologies, our innovative yet risk-based approach is key to delivering a world-class border system. Once fully implemented, these important post-Brexit measures will, I believe, bring considerable benefits to the UK economy and to UK trade, and the Government stands ready to support businesses through this transition.”