Physical EU border checks set to be delayed again – but PM suggests new tech could render them unnecessary

Written by Sam Trendall on 22 April 2022 in News
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Boris Johnson acknowledges inevitability of fourth delay to introduction of inspections of plant and animal produce 

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

Boris Johnson has acknowledged what seems to be an inevitability that the UK will further delay the implementation of checks on goods arriving in the UK from the EU.

The prime minister even suggested that the use of technology could mean the inspections – which are intended to be applied to plants and animal produce – need never be introduced at all. 

So-called sanitary and phytosanitary border checks on products arriving from EU nations were due to come into effect on 1 July. The equivalent checks on goods travelling from the UK into one of the 27 remaining member states were implemented as soon as the Brexit process was completed at the start of last year.

But the government is set to shortly confirm that the introduction of the same processes at UK ports will be delayed for the fourth time.

The postponement of the planned 1 July start date for the checks had been rumoured to be cards in recent days.


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The delay was more-or-less confirmed in comments made by Johnson during a trip to India this week. The PM hinted that the technological developments may mean that physical inspections are not ultimately required at all – and not only in relation to the UK’s relationship with the EU.

“I’m generally in favour of minimal friction at all junctures between the UK and the EU. New technology will make some of the checks we have obsolete,” he said. “That leads me on to the long-term solution to the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic, but that’s another matter.”

The use of technology – such as smart, biometrically enabled cameras and connected IT systems allowing data to flow between agencies – has long been mooted as potential means of meeting the new commitments for border checks faced by the UK in light of Brexit. However, leaked Home Office documents have previously revealed that officials did not expect the use of such methods to be viable until about 2030.

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on sam.trendall@dodsgroup.com.

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