The UK is to delay introducing post-Brexit checks on food and farming imports to England, Scotland and Wales, blaming Covid disruption and pressure on global supply chains.
Measures that were supposed to go into effect next month will now go into effect in January and July of next year.
Labour claimed that the government lacked a “sustainable solution to tackling border delays and red tape.”
The move comes amid shortages of some products in shops and supermarkets.
Many large companies have blamed a lack of lorry drivers for the problems experienced, with M&S chairman Archie Norman, a former Conservative MP, predicting a “bumpy ride” for retailers in the run-up to Christmas.
- UK delays Brexit border checks on EU goods again
- Frost concerned over EU comments on NI Protocol
- Brexit and Covid take giant pork pies off pub menu
- How serious is the HGV driver shortage?
Since the beginning of this year, the EU has imposed full checks on UK goods.
Checks on goods going the other way were also set to be fully implemented after the post-Brexit transition period ended in January.
However, they were postponed, and in March, the government announced a timetable for completing changes in the food and agriculture sectors by October 1.
Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt has told MPs that another delay is now required.
“In terms of systems, infrastructure, and resourcing, the government’s own preparations remain on track to meet that timetable,” she said in a written Commons statement.
“However, the pandemic has had a longer-lasting impact on businesses, both in the UK and across the EU, than many observers predicted in March.”
“There are also pressures on global supply chains due to a variety of factors, including the pandemic and increased global freight transport costs.”
Ms Mordaunt announced that the requirement to pre-notify British officials about agricultural and food imports from the EU would now begin on January 1, 2020, rather than October 1, 2018.
She stated that the requirement for EU firms to obtain export health certificates before sending live animals or animal products to the United Kingdom would be delayed until July 1.
“This announcement shows what we have all known for months – that the government does not have a workable, sustainable solution to tackling delays and red tape at the border… “We cannot have another year of stop-gap solutions, meaningless deadlines, and threats of even greater disruption and economic damage,” said Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Baroness Chapman.
The latest delays, according to the British Chambers of Commerce, are “sensible given the ongoing issues with ensuring trader readiness, the need to build more border control posts, and the skills shortages crisis.”
The Food and Drink Federation, on the other hand, chastised the government for the “lateness” of its announcement.
“Businesses have spent a significant amount of time and money preparing for the new import regime, which will go into effect on October 1, 2021.” “With only 17 days to go, the rug has been pulled,” said CEO Ian Wright.
“We welcome the government’s recognition that supply chains are under extreme strain, but this is largely due to labour and skills shortages in all parts of the food chain,” he added.