UK Brexit minister hints at light-touch checks on EU imports

LONDON — The long-delayed checks on goods entering Britain from the EU will probably be more light-touch than those imposed by Brussels on U.K. goods entering the bloc, Britain’s Brexit minister said.

The U.K. has postponed the introduction of controls on EU imports twice, and now expects they won’t be fully in place until July 1, 2022.

But, according to David Frost, the British government does not feel obliged to impose the same levels of checks on EU imports as those adopted by the EU on U.K. goods — especially when it comes to food-safety controls and customs paperwork.

Frost told the House of Lords European affairs committee Tuesday that EU law on food safety “requires extremely high levels of real-life checks” on imported food and live animals, but in the case of goods from some EU countries, the U.K. government may decide that these are disproportionate.

“I would be surprised if, when we finally bring in these controls in January and July, we do exactly the same thing as the EU does. I don’t think we would see their levels of checks on SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary] goods and live animals as entirely proportionate for example, and we might not do the same thing ourselves,” he said.

Another area of difference might be customs paperwork, he said. “At the moment we’ve inherited the EU’s single administrative document because we’ve inherited their laws but it is not obvious that you need to collect every single piece of information that is on that document and process it that way.”

Frost stressed no decision has yet been made on the levels of checks and paperwork, but said the British government wants to “improve the processes” over the next two years. The British government is, he said, already talking to trade associations and high-value traders in the U.K. and the EU to raise awareness of its requirements.

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