Trade associations criticize upcoming UK Brexit border charge

Brexit

Trade associations have responded with anger to the UK government’s recent announcement regarding charges on EU plant and animal product imports into Britain. As of the end of this month, consignments entering via the main Channel port of Dover will face charges of up to £145. Businesses are concerned that these “common user charges” will lead to increased food prices and dissuade EU producers from exporting to the UK.

The British Chambers of Commerce criticized the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for not heeding industry concerns over the charges. Defra stated that the charges would apply to all consignments entering the UK via government-operated border controls at Dover and the Eurotunnel, which handle the majority of UK food imports. William Bain from the BCC expressed concern over the impact on smaller importers, particularly with charges of £29 per individual commodity line, capped at five charges per consignment, resulting in a maximum fee of £145.

These charges affect imports classified as high-, medium-, and low-risk, as well as goods in transit across the UK. Despite complaints from trade bodies, the charges are anticipated to serve as a benchmark for privately operated ports receiving imports from the EU.

Critics argue that these charges, coupled with new costs such as obtaining Export Health Certificates (EHCs) for plant and animal products, will lead to higher food prices and discourage smaller EU producers from exporting to the UK, thereby reducing consumer choice and increasing food inflation.

Andrew Opie from the British Retail Consortium expressed disappointment over the government’s delay in confirming costs at the UK’s busiest port for fresh food imports. Additionally, the UK horticultural industry, heavily reliant on imports from EU-based plant nurseries, warns that these charges will drive up costs, particularly impacting small and medium-sized enterprises importing multiple commodity codes per consignment.

In response, Defra defended the charges as necessary to recover the costs of operating border facilities and reiterated its commitment to supporting businesses as they adapt to new border checks.