The UK retail sector has warned about disruption to the supply of fruit and vegetables after Britain confirmed it will introduce import controls on EU goods from January. These controls will come into force after the end of the current Brexit transition period, during which EU rules continue to apply.
Officials have now told trade organisations that a "smart border" with simplified systems designed to reduce disruption would not be available until 2025.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said ministers needed to set out detailed plans on how the controls would be implemented. He said: "Government will need to move fast if it intends to provide the necessary infrastructure to carry out full border controls on imported goods from January 2021. Without the necessary infrastructure up and running from day one, consumers in the UK will see significant disruption, particularly in the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables."
The introduction of controls means that from January, traders in the EU and Britain will have to submit customs declarations and be liable to goods checks, the government said.
Michael Gove, the senior cabinet minister and Brexit planning chief, said: "The UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union, so we will have to be ready for the customs procedures and regulator checks that will inevitably follow. As a result of that we will be in a stronger position, not just to make sure that our economy succeeds outside the European Union but that we are in a position to take advantage of new trading relationships with the rest of the world."
The government says the import controls will be needed to keep borders safe and secure, and to ensure all trading partners are treated equally as it negotiates new trading arrangements with the rest of the world. It will also need to collect customs, VAT and excise duties.