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Britain announced on Tuesday it was delaying the start of post-Brexit border controls on food imports from the European Union, saying trade disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic has already put pressure on business.

The delay means that controls on EU agricultural and animal products which were due to start from October will not be introduced until next year.

The UK has said the “pragmatic new timetable” will ease pressure on businesses grappling with supply chain disruptions from the pandemic. He said customs declarations and checks will be introduced on January 1, but safety and security declarations will not be required until July 1.

Brexit Minister David Frost said “we want companies to focus on their recovery from the pandemic rather than having to face new demands at the border.”

He said the pandemic “has had more lasting impacts on businesses, both in the UK and in the European Union, than many observers expected.”

“There are also pressures on global supply chains, caused by a wide range of factors, including the pandemic and the increasing costs of global freight transport. These pressures are particularly felt in the agrifood sector.

Britain has seen sporadic but widespread supply problems in recent months, with supermarket shelves empty, fast food outlets running out of chicken and some pubs running out of a full selection of beers. Experts cite a perfect storm of factors, including Brexit and COVID-19, leading to worker shortages in key areas such as trucking.

Since Britain left the EU’s single market at the end of 2020, imports from the bloc are said to be subject to the same controls as goods from anywhere else in the world.

This is the second time the UK has postponed the introduction of some of the controls agreed to in its divorce deal with the EU. It has already suspended indefinitely controls on food products destined for Northern Ireland from the rest of the country. This sparked a feud with the EU, which threatened legal action. Little progress has been made in discussions between the UK and the EU on resolving trade rules disputes.


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