Common user charge rates “unhelpful”

Reading, UK: The government’s publication of Common User Charge rates and eligibility for imports entering the UK through Dover and Eurotunnel have been met with disappointment by the Cold Chain Federation, describing it as “unhelpful”.

“It is extremely disappointing that the government announced the charges at the last minute, leaving affected businesses little time to revise their commercial arrangements with EU customers,” said Phil Pluck , chief executive, Cold Chain Federation.

“This is in no way helpful to UK based importers and the whole EU supply chain. It reinforces the government’s slapdash approach to a vital part of UK PLC,” Pluck said.
“Our main concern is that this is now certain to negatively affect food prices. The confirmation that common user charges will apply from the 30th of April means that UK importers of medium and high-risk goods will have to pass this cost onto either the EU importer, the smaller UK retailer, or the UK consumer.
“EU exporters are also shouldering the additional cost of Health Certificates which may discourage many from exporting food and plant products to the UK in future.
“Ultimately, this will increase business costs and food prices and potentially lower choices for the shopper.”

Small imports of products such as fish, salami, sausage, cheese and yoghurt will be subject to fees of up to £145 from 30 April, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The fee will be made per type of goods imported – the “commodity line” – and capped at £145 for mixed consignments. Individual products will face charges of up to £29. It will apply to goods deemed low, medium and high risk.

“This is in no way helpful to UK based importers and the whole EU supply chain. It reinforces the government’s slapdash approach to a vital part of UK PLC,” Phil Pluck, chief executive, Cold Chain Federation

The fee has been introduced to pay for border inspections and fund new facilities in Kent to protect biosecurity – preventing the import of plant and animal disease.

But the Horticultural Trades Association said the policy felt like it was “constructed on the back of an envelope at best” and would “undoubtedly increase costs, potentially reduce consumer choice, and increase the likelihood of empty shelves”.

“Our sector typically has multiple commodity lines per consignment, meaning, in reality, businesses in our sector will be paying the £145 maximum charge,” said James Barnes, chairman, Horticultural Trades Association.

Labour shadow minister Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “British shoppers and businesses already suffering with the Conservative cost-of-living crisis will – rightly – be deeply worried about prices being driven up yet again.

“Labour has warned about the impact of these measures and the potential for chaos with new border checks. With less than a month before their introduction, we know know what the costs will be.

“Labour has a plan to reduce costly bureaucracy, through seeking to negotiate a veterinary agreement with the EU to massively reduce the need for checks, helping make food cheaper and our businesses more competitive.”

The new border checks will be phased in over the next 12 months but physical checks have been flagged as starting on 30 April for some time. However, the cost associated with those checks had not been revealed until now.