The Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) is being introduced from January 2024, after several delays. This is a new system of control of all goods imported into the United Kingdom.
This mainly concerns goods imported from the EU because, due to Brexit, this is the part of the border model that has changed. But it also replaces the system applied to goods imported from the rest of the world.
Since Brexit was implemented in January 2021, goods leaving the UK have been subject to new EU checks, but there has been no reciprocal agreement to check goods arriving the other way.
“It is extremely frustrating that the government has once again delayed the implementation of vital checks on goods entering from the EU for the fifth time,” NFU president Minette Batters said in a statement . statement.
The delays are intended to give businesses more time to prepare and the government to incorporate. feedback from stakeholders, notably from the agricultural sector which cited the growing threat of animal and plant diseases, such as African swine fever and Xylella fastidiosa.
A change to import rules of this magnitude requires investment for businesses to prepare. Companies said their supply chains would need time to adapt to the new controls.
But with rules introduced for UK importers but without reciprocity agreements, UK businesses face a trading disadvantage.
What is BTOM?
The BTOM is a global protocol for biosecurity controls and is the new UK import control system for goods from the EU. The system is meant to mean less bureaucracy and more digitalization than would have been the case under the original post-Brexit model.
New rules will be introduced in stages until 2024. They place particular emphasis on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures for goods such as live animals, plants and animal products, and therefore particularly affect farmers, food importers and bioscience industries.
“There are three distinct stages,” William Bain, head of trade policy at the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), said in a telephone interview. “The first two only concern importers bringing products of animal, plant and food origin. » However, delays could impact businesses across all sectors.
In January, new rules relating to sanitary and phytosanitary checks or ‘sanitary certification’ and full customs checks for ineligible goods from Northern Ireland will be introduced.
By the end of April, controls on high-risk animal products, plants, plant products and food (and feed) of non-animal origin from the EU will be implemented at medium risk . Eligible products will be subject to documentary, identity and physical checks, and imports of sanitary and phytosanitary products from third countries will adopt a new risk-based approach.
Safety and security declarations for EU imports will be mandatory from the end of October 2024 and there will be a more streamlined data set for imports. The government said this stage 3 would be linked to the deployment of a single commercial portal.
The aim is to reduce companies’ data requirements for safety and security, make data submission easier and improve the way data is used.
What does it replace?
The new rules do not replace an operating system that is still in use. The BTOM is being introduced because legally, post-Brexit trade deals must be in place for goods imported from the EU.
When the new Brexit trade arrangements came into force in January 2021, the UK did not have a replacement system for imports, nor an agreed reciprocity arrangement with the EU.
A draft version of the BTOM was published in April, but companies warned they would not be able to do so. absorb additional costs new controls and these would likely be passed on to consumers.
Why is it introduced?
The delay is partly because it aims to protect businesses from these costs, but also because the additional costs could raise food prices and increase already high inflation, which has contributed to the Cost of living crisis in the UK.
There is also an issue regarding the UK’s food security, which the NFU says is around 60%. New controls on EU imports could deter EU food exporters from exporting to the UK, thereby affecting supply, potentially further increasing prices and causing food shortages.
There are other reasons why some parts of the UK farming community believe a new system needs to be implemented without further delay.
Rob Mutimer, a Norfolk pig farmer and president of the National Pig Association, recently warned Border rules are needed to protect the UK’s biosecurity and ensure that African swine fever (ASF) does not reach the UK. It is very contagious and deadly for pigs. New cases have recently appeared in wild boars in Sweden and in commercial pigs in northern Italy.
The government acknowledges that an ASF outbreak would pose “a fundamental threat to the viability of our pork industry”.
What changes will this bring?
Import controls will likely increase costs for European farmers. This will prevent UK producers from being undercut, but could cause EU producers to stop exporting to the UK, opening the market to cheaper alternatives from countries with less strict rules. in terms of quality and provenance.
The government says that digitalization of the process save businesses 500 million pounds sterling per year, because thanks to electronic certificates there will be fewer checks.
However, any new system inevitably brings additional costs and more paperwork which could harm competitiveness. The NFU is concerned about the impact on the UK’s biosecurity.
How does this affect businesses?
Currently, when UK businesses trade animal and plant products with EU businesses, they face new post-Brexit rules which increase the cost of trading. European companies can still export goods without reciprocal controls, giving them a commercial advantage as they can compete with British companies.
Horticultural companies are concerned because they are no longer the hub for controlling rules and product quality. Instead, this will be handled by border checkpoints. NFU president Minette Waters sees this as “a major danger point, with unknown costs and increased biosecurity risks”.
The government confirmed in Parliament that additional costs to businesses will amount to £330 million a year. The cost of export health certificates alone is £160 million. The BCC wants a veterinary deal to remove the requirement for export health certificates for UK and EU businesses.
What about Northern Ireland?
Businesses in Northern Ireland may welcome the delay in BTOM due to the unique pressures they have faced from Brexit with the introduction of the Windsor framework in October. The BTOM rules will be implemented under the Windsor Framework.
Rules for food products will change to ensure that products manufactured outside the UK are not re-labeled as ‘from Northern Ireland’ to gain access to the UK. This means that most products in Northern Ireland will benefit from full access to the UK, although food and feed products will need to be owned or processed in Northern Ireland by an NI-registered business to be eligible.
What should startups and SMEs do?
Companies must ensure that their European suppliers are prepared for the new system and have their export health certificates for ready-made meat and dairy products.
“Talk to your suppliers in the EU,” Bain said. “If not, do it today to ensure there is enough slack in the supply chain for delays and in supply journey time to minimize waste. »
The NFU said the government must use the delay wisely to “raise awareness among EU exporters and address concerns expressed by many in the supply chain”. A particularly affected sector, horticulture, will see its control transferred to border checkpoints. This represents a major biosecurity risk.
One potential way to make Milestone 2 easier to integrate in April is to see if your business qualifies for the program.Trust a merchant‘, set up for heavy users.
The obligation is on the importer to follow the new regulations, but this depends on the specific type of contract the companies have. Some large supermarkets use a ‘duty paid delivery’ (DDP) system which requires suppliers to deliver directly to warehouses. In this case, it is the responsibility of the exporter to comply with regulations, who could also benefit from the “Trust a Trader” program.
According to the UK government, “traders welcomed the model as an improvement on the legacy EU model, particularly the proportional approach to risk and the ambition to use Trusted Trader systems as part of the model” , he said in his updated report. Border Target Operational Model.