UK Import Controls Under Spotlight at Inaugural Stakeholder Forum: Evaluating Risks and Preparing for Future Trade Policies

The first in a series of stakeholder forums focused on UK import controls was held in May 2023, with the participation of more than 20 importers and agents alongside representatives from one of Britain’s largest port health authorities. The forum, hosted by the Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority (SCPHA), provided insights into controls being implemented on goods entering the UK. The SCPHA operates as part of the East Suffolk Council, overseeing the inspection of imported food, feed, and goods of animal origin at the ports of Felixstowe, Harwich, and Ipswich.

The forum was led by Dale Weeding, a business relationship officer at SCPHA. He expressed the authority’s role as a facilitator in trade, emphasizing their commitment to uphold legislation that protects public and animal health while simultaneously enforcing controls on organic products, illegal fishing, and supporting importers adhering to the UK’s health standards.

An SCPHA panel, comprising operations manager Hannah Panting, technical lead Simon Rowell, technical specialist Andrew Robinson, and team leader Dan Longson, responded to queries about upcoming checks on EU imports. These checks, set to begin in October 2023, are part of the draft Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) proposed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). According to this model, EU imports will be categorized based on risk levels, which will then determine the required level of checks by port health authorities.

The panel also discussed SCPHA’s upcoming initiative to check products of animal origin imported through Harwich International Port starting in June. This expands SCPHA’s current role of examining non-animal origin products and intercepting illegal pork detected by Border Force. Trade volumes at Harwich will be under review in the following months to adjust resource allocation accordingly.

Furthermore, a parliamentary inquiry has been initiated to investigate the impact of the UK’s post-Brexit trade policy on various sectors, including food producers, consumers, and businesses. The UK has made significant trade moves since its exit from the European Union, including free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand and joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. The inquiry will examine the effects of these agreements and the potential opportunities and risks of future deals, particularly in relation to food safety, standards, and animal welfare. The Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee is open to written submissions until July 28, 2023.

The next Port Health Stakeholder Forum is scheduled for July 20, with organizations invited to register and attend for free through Eventbrite.

Strategy and Delivery Manager at the Surrey University Vet School