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Brexit news - live: Checks make it ‘easier to trade with China than France’ as food producers brace for cost rise

Brexit news - live: Checks make it ‘easier to trade with China than France’ as food producers brace for cost rise

Small businesses have warned that new post-Brexit checks mean it is easier to import from China than it is to trade with France, as food producers brace themselves for escalating costs.

The new rules implemented today mean that health certificates will now be needed on a wide range of EU goods such as meat, fruit and vegetables. A further system for physical checks at the border is coming into force on 30 April.

Nigel Jenny from the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) warned that the checks for food and plant importers is essentially a £200million tax on the industry and it will increase prices for consumers.

Paolo Arrigo, managing director of Seeds of Italy, told The Independent that the new checks were “anti-small business” and that it was now easier to import from China than France.

Conservative health minister Dame Andrea Leadsom however played down concerns about more red tape, saying that checks at the UK/EU border are the “price you pay” for leaving the EU.

She told Times Radio: “It was very clear in the Brexit discussions a long time ago now, today is the fourth anniversary of leaving the EU, it was very clear that we would be leaving the single market.”

Key Points

  • Brexit checks make it ‘easier to trade with China than France’

  • FSB raises concerns of ‘disproportionate impact of fees’ that could hit small businesses

  • Minister brushes off Brexit check costs as ‘price you pay for being sovereign state again’

  • No 10 says new £3bn Brexit deal with DUP doesn’t need EU approval

  • Labour vows to 'review' Brexit deal in government

Government to fast-track legislation through Commons to deliver on Stormont deal

08:21 , Matt Mathers

The government aims to fast-track two pieces of legislation through parliament on Thursday to deliver on the commitments made in its package aimed at restoring powersharing at Stormont.

It comes a day after the publication of measures that would end routine post-Brexit checks on goods shipped from Great Britain to final destinations in Northern Ireland.

Full report:

Government to fast-track legislation through Commons to deliver on Stormont deal

Now Boris tries to sabotage his own bungled Brexit deal with new attack on Sunak

Wednesday 31 January 2024 22:00 , Joe Middleton

Boris Johnson has attacked Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal with the DUP – warning that it could tie the UK to EU rules on the trade of goods in future.

Mr Sunak’s government has set out its deal with the DUP to remove routine checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in a bid to restore powersharing at Stormont.

The so-called “green lane” process – which requires percentages of goods to be checked in NI as they arrive from GB – will be rebranded as the “UK internal market system”.

Adam Forrest reports.

Boris Johnson tries to sabotage his bungled Brexit deal in new attack on Sunak

Boris Johnson celebrates four years of Brexit

Wednesday 31 January 2024 20:30 , Joe Middleton

Boris Johnson marked four years since Brexit took effect with a warning of any watering down of the current arrangements.

It comes with the government set to publish the details of its deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), setting the stage for the return of the Stormont powersharing institutions.

But some Tories have concerns it could limit the UK’s post-Brexit freedom to diverge from EU rules.

The former prime minister, in a post on X, hit out at “artificial” concerns about the border on the island of Ireland and warned against any return to the kind of deal pushed unsuccessfully by Theresa May.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, he said: “Four years on from Brexit we celebrate the restoration of this country’s democratic power to make its own laws and rules.

“With those Brexit freedoms we have introduced improved standards for animal welfare, cut taxes on sanitary products, created greater flexibility for cutting edge industries from financial services to bioscience, done many global free trade deals - and it was at least partly thanks to Brexit that this country had the fastest covid vaccine rollout in Europe.

“We must retain the appetite and the courage to diverge from the low-growth high-regulation European model.

“We must at all costs avoid a return to anything remotely like the disastrous ‘Chequers’ formula whereby artificial concerns about the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland are used to keep the whole of the UK in alignment with EU rules.”

Labour will look again at EU relationship if businesses are ‘struggling’ with new checks

Wednesday 31 January 2024 19:30 , Joe Middleton

Labour said the party, should it win this year’s expected general election, would look again at the trading relationship with Brussels if businesses are “struggling” with the new checks.

Tulip Siddiq, a shadow Treasury minister, told Sky News: “If there are things that aren’t working, then of course we need to review it and look at it.

“We would look at look at where businesses are struggling, where the economy is struggling, and go and see if we can get a better deal for our country.

“That is what anyone who is in charge should be doing.

“They (voters) may have voted to leave the European Union, but they didn’t vote to get a bad deal.”

Brexit a ‘seismic moment’ and will take time to ‘filter through’, says minister

Wednesday 31 January 2024 18:30 , Joe Middleton

Brexit was a “seismic moment in British politics” and “something of that magnitude is going to take time to filter through”, Cabinet minister Victoria Atkins said.

The health secretary told reporters that the Covid vaccine rollout was an example of Britain’s ability to move quicker than the EU after leaving the bloc.

She said: “I’ll give you one very positive example of how being free from the EU enabled us to make real change to our society and that, of course, was through the vaccination programme during Covid.

“We were able to come out of lockdown faster than any other country, because we were able to make those decisions about the vaccination programme and roll it out as quickly as we did.”

She claimed the pharmaceutical industry viewed the UK’s position outside the EU as a “real game changer for them” and “I think we really are going to see some really exciting opportunities in the years ahead of us to the things”.

FSB raises concerns of ‘disproportionate impact of fees’ that could hit small businesses

Wednesday 31 January 2024 17:32 , Joe Middleton

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has raised concerns about the “disproportionate impact of fees” that could land on small businesses when physical checks at the border come into force on 30 April.

Tina McKenzie, policy chair at the group, said:“We are concerned that some UK small importers might still be in the dark about the import checks that came into effect on 31 Jan.

While we’ve been urging small firms to get ready for the changes and talk to their EU suppliers, there’s a need for UK Government to monitor implementation closely over the coming days and weeks and take steps to address issues that impact on trade flows.

“Groupage shipments, often used by small businesses importing small quantities, are particularly vulnerable to disruption.

“In terms of physical checks coming into effect from April, there are concerns around the disproportionate impact of fees for these checks on small businesses and confusion over how the checks will be carried out, which might affect the quality of imported goods. We’d like clarity from the Government on these areas as soon as possible.”

The FSB are the largest organisation representing small and medium sized businesses in the UK and have around 200,000 members.

57 per cent of people think Brexit is more a failure than a success

Wednesday 31 January 2024 16:59 , Joe Middleton

A new poll from Ipsos Mori indicates that 57 per cent of respondents say Brexit is more a failure than a success.

The poll also reveals that 13 per cent people think it is more a success than a failure.

Boris Johnson attacks Sunak’s new Brexit deal, as plan to cut NI checks revealed

Wednesday 31 January 2024 16:33 , Joe Middleton

Boris Johnson has attacked Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal with the DUP – warning that it could tie the UK to EU rules on the trade of goods in future.

Mr Sunak’s government has set out its deal with the DUP to remove routine checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in a bid to restore powersharing at Stormont.

The so-called “green lane” process – which requires percentages of goods to be checked in NI as they arrive from GB – will be rebranded as the “UK internal market system”.

Adam Forrest reports.

Boris Johnson attacks Sunak’s new Brexit deal with DUP

Checks make it ‘easier to trade with China than France’

Wednesday 31 January 2024 16:08 , Joe Middleton

The new post-Brexit import checks on food and plant products are “anti-small business” and have increased red tape so much it is now easier to import from China than France.

Paolo Arrigo, managing director of Seeds of Italy, told The Independent that where previously the industry had “freedom” while .Britain was in the EU, it has developed into a “bureaucratic nightmare”.

He said that the new rules will lead to four significant problems; delays, reduced consumer choice, increased costs and more bureaucracy.

“For the UK seed industry this is devastating and is just further bureaucracy and costs that we don’t need...We are a small business and there are six of us, we do not have to time for extra paperwork that’s needed.

“If you are a big company with thousands of employees you can just hire someone to sort the additional measures that are needed, but for small businesses it is a real drain on our time.”

Mr Arrigo added: “If we had stayed in the Single Market we would not have been having even a tiny proportion of the problems we are seeing now.”

He said that ever since the UK left the EU trade had become increasingly difficult with the continent.

“When we first started with all of this nonsense we had two deliveries returned to Italy. One was because it was with the wrong palette. And another was returned because it was not written in the correct colour of black. These issues did not happen when we had the freedom to trade.”

£200million price hike for fresh food and vegetables

Wednesday 31 January 2024 15:43 , Joe Middleton

Nigel Jenny from the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) has warned that post Brexit checks for food and plant importers will increase costs for businesses.

He told BBC breakfast: “The £200m is a tax in essence by the UK government to manage this process”.

He added that these increased costs will be passed onto consumers in the form of price increases for fresh produce.

UK government is ‘Brexit-betraying’, says DUP MP

Wednesday 31 January 2024 14:45 , Joe Middleton

The UK government has been accused of being spineless, weak-kneed and “Brexit-betraying” by a DUP MP.

Speaking in the Commons, Sammy Wilson, MP for East Antrim, said: “When the Northern Ireland assembly sits, ministers and assembly members will be expected by law to adhere to and implement laws which are made in Brussels, which they had no say over and no ability to amend, and no ability to stop.

“This is a result of this spineless, weak-kneed, Brexit-betraying Government, refusing to take on the EU and its interference in Northern Ireland.”

He added: “Is Northern Ireland going to find it’s got the ability to stay tied to the United Kingdom, or will the Government proceed happily to change laws here regardless of the impact it has on Northern Ireland?”

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris replied: “On the fourth anniversary of leaving the European Union, I can tell him absolutely that this agreed package of measures will not change the freedoms and powers we have secured through Brexit or through the Windsor framework.

Labour will look again at EU relationship if businesses are ‘struggling’ with new checks

Wednesday 31 January 2024 13:51 , Joe Middleton

Labour said the party, should it win this year’s expected general election, would look again at the trading relationship with Brussels if businesses are “struggling” with the new checks.

Tulip Siddiq, a shadow Treasury minister, told Sky News: “If there are things that aren’t working, then of course we need to review it and look at it.

“We would look at look at where businesses are struggling, where the economy is struggling, and go and see if we can get a better deal for our country.

“That is what anyone who is in charge should be doing.

“They (voters) may have voted to leave the European Union, but they didn’t vote to get a bad deal.”

Boris Johnson celebrates four years of Brexit

Wednesday 31 January 2024 12:51 , Joe Middleton

Boris Johnson marked four years since Brexit took effect with a warning of any watering down of the current arrangements.

It comes with the government set to publish the details of its deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), setting the stage for the return of the Stormont powersharing institutions.

But some Tories have concerns it could limit the UK’s post-Brexit freedom to diverge from EU rules.

The former prime minister, in a post on X, hit out at “artificial” concerns about the border on the island of Ireland and warned against any return to the kind of deal pushed unsuccessfully by Theresa May.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, he said: “Four years on from Brexit we celebrate the restoration of this country’s democratic power to make its own laws and rules.

“With those Brexit freedoms we have introduced improved standards for animal welfare, cut taxes on sanitary products, created greater flexibility for cutting edge industries from financial services to bioscience, done many global free trade deals - and it was at least partly thanks to Brexit that this country had the fastest covid vaccine rollout in Europe.

“We must retain the appetite and the courage to diverge from the low-growth high-regulation European model.

“We must at all costs avoid a return to anything remotely like the disastrous ‘Chequers’ formula whereby artificial concerns about the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland are used to keep the whole of the UK in alignment with EU rules.”

Brexit a ‘seismic moment’ and will take time to ‘filter through’, says minister

Wednesday 31 January 2024 12:08 , Joe Middleton

Brexit was a “seismic moment in British politics” and “something of that magnitude is going to take time to filter through”, Cabinet minister Victoria Atkins said.

The health secretary told reporters that the Covid vaccine rollout was an example of Britain’s ability to move quicker than the EU after leaving the bloc.

She said: “I’ll give you one very positive example of how being free from the EU enabled us to make real change to our society and that, of course, was through the vaccination programme during Covid.

“We were able to come out of lockdown faster than any other country, because we were able to make those decisions about the vaccination programme and roll it out as quickly as we did.”

She claimed the pharmaceutical industry viewed the UK’s position outside the EU as a “real game changer for them” and “I think we really are going to see some really exciting opportunities in the years ahead of us to the things”.

Labour vows to 'review' Brexit deal in government

Wednesday 31 January 2024 11:59 , Joe Middleton

Labour would look again at the trading relationship with the European Union if businesses are “struggling” with new checks that have come into force, a shadow minister has suggested.

Tulip Siddiq, a shadow Treasury minister, told Sky News: “If there are things that aren’t working, then of course we need to review it and look at it.”

She added: “We would look at look at where businesses are struggling, where the economy is struggling, and go and see if we can get a better deal for our country.

“That is what anyone who is in charge should be doing.

“They [voters] may have voted to leave the European Union, but they didn’t vote to get a bad deal.

“[The EU] are still our closest trading partners. If we can work to get some sort of negotiation which is good for our country, I don’t think any British person is going to say no to our economy improving or our trade deals getting better.”

Watch: Stormont powersharing set to return after DUP executive backs deal

Wednesday 31 January 2024 11:30 , Joe Middleton

Tory Brexiteer dismisses cost of new food checks as ‘price you pay’ for Brexit

Wednesday 31 January 2024 11:00 , Joe Middleton

Conservative minister Andrea Leadsom has dismissed the concerns of business chiefs over the costly new checks imposed on imports from the EU as the “price you pay” for Brexit.

The leading Brexiteer defended the “friction” in the new system for physical checks at the border – describing it as “the costs of doing business”.

Ms Leadsom said British firms must “adapt” and could even consider “changing their trading arrangements with the EU” if they wanted to bring down their costs.

Adam Forrest and Zoe Grunewald report

Minister brushes off Brexit checks as ‘price you pay for being sovereign state again’

New Brexit border regime could pose ‘serious biosecurity risks’

Wednesday 31 January 2024 10:38 , Joe Middleton

Concerns have been expressed as new post-Brexit rules come into force.

The long-delayed new rules, coming into force today, are part of the UK Government’s introduction of a series of checks this year.

But fears have been expressed about disruption to supply chains, with MPs saying the new border regime could present “serious biosecurity risks” to the UK.

New Brexit border regime could pose ‘serious biosecurity risks’

Former BBC journalist says he ‘doesn’t remember Brexit campaigners saying the cost of doing business was going to rise’

Wednesday 31 January 2024 10:21 , Joe Middleton

Earlier today Conservative minister Andrea Leadsom dismissed the concerns of UK small business owners regarding increased costs and checks at the UK/EU border.

She said it was the “price you pay” for Brexit and said that “businesses are used to the costs of doing business”, as the new rules on food imports came into force today.

Former BBC journalist and now podcast host Jon Sopel has responded to the comments on X, formerly Twitter, and raised some interesting points.

He said: “Sorry. Maybe I have false memory syndrome, but I don’t remember the Brexit campaigners during referendum warning companies that cost of doing business was going to rise steeply and become ever more bureaucratic. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention.”

Parma hams and Spanish chorizos to disappear from UK shelves due to new Brexit checks, Rishi Sunak warned

Wednesday 31 January 2024 10:10 , Joe Middleton

Specialist meats such as Parma hams and Spanish chorizo sausages could begin disappearing from the shelves of UK supermarkets and delis because of costly new Brexit checks, food sector chiefs have told The Independent.

Rishi Sunak’s government has been warned of major supply problems with EU meat and dairy products when extra red tape and inspections are imposed on imports from April.

Some suppliers of specialist products, like French cheeses, will give up on Britain because of the extra expense and “huge hassle” involved in sending goods, say industry bosses.

Adam Forrest reports.

Parma hams and Spanish chorizos to disappear due to new Brexit checks, Sunak warned

No 10 says new £3bn Brexit deal with DUP doesn’t need EU approval

Wednesday 31 January 2024 09:40 , Joe Middleton

No 10 has said the agreement struck with the DUP to change post-Brexit checks for Northern Ireland will not need Rishi Sunak to reopen his Windsor Framework deal with the EU.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has claimed the new agreement – which has won the backing of his unionist party – will involve “substantive” changes to trade arrangements.

Sir Jeffrey insisted it would remove all post-Brexit checks on goods moving into Northern Ireland from Great Britain under a deal to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

Adam Forrest reports.

No 10 says new £3bn Brexit deal with DUP doesn’t need EU approval

Roses are red, violets are blue, will there be a shortage from the EU?

Wednesday 31 January 2024 09:35 , Joe Middleton

One area of concern has been the possibility that the new checks implemented today could make it more difficult to import flowers, and cause a shortage of red roses for Valentine’s Day.

Trade minister Greg Hands played down any potential difficulties last week and said the border target operating model will “simplify border processes for both imports and exports”, .

However Labour MP Daniel Zeichner voiced concerns over the difficulties for importing flowers.

He told the Commons: “Those five times delayed border checks are coming into effect very soon but those dealing with plant, animal health products are seriously worried about potential delays.

“Indeed, the chair of the Horticultural Trade Association pointed out that the process of importing a petunia from the Netherlands has already increased from 19 to 59 steps, and he warns the new border is a disaster waiting to happen.

“So what’s the minister doing to ensure that we’ll have a plentiful supply of imported red roses for Valentine’s Day, especially for all those Conservatives on the other side who love each other so much?”

Labour vows to 'review' Brexit deal in government

Wednesday 31 January 2024 09:26 , Archie Mitchell

Labour would look again at the trading relationship with the European Union if businesses are “struggling” with new checks that have come into force, a shadow minister has suggested.

Tulip Siddiq, a shadow Treasury minister, told Sky News: “If there are things that aren’t working, then of course we need to review it and look at it.”

She added: “We would look at look at where businesses are struggling, where the economy is struggling, and go and see if we can get a better deal for our country.

“That is what anyone who is in charge should be doing.

“They [voters] may have voted to leave the European Union, but they didn’t vote to get a bad deal.

“[The EU] are still our closest trading partners. If we can work to get some sort of negotiation which is good for our country, I don’t think any British person is going to say no to our economy improving or our trade deals getting better.”

Minister brushes off Brexit check costs as ‘price you pay for being sovereign state again’

Wednesday 31 January 2024 09:22 , Joe Middleton

Health minister Dame Andrea Leadsom has dismissed the concerns of UK small business owners regarding increased costs and checks at the UK/EU border as the “price you pay” for Brexit.

Speaking on the morning media round, Ms Leadsom defended the costly brand new system for physical checks at the border, telling Sky News that “businesses are used to the costs of doing business”, and that they might consider “changing their trading arrangemnets with the EU” to bring down costs.

Ms Leadsom said: “Leaving the single market was always going to have implications.”

Zoe Grunewald reports

Minister brushes off Brexit checks as ‘price you pay for being sovereign state again’

Brexit is back

Wednesday 31 January 2024 09:18 , Joe Middleton

Good morning,

Welcome to our live blog covering the new post-Brexit checks on food and drink imports. From today, health certificates will now be needed on a wide range of EU goods, such as meat, fruit and vegetables.

Businesses have already highlighted concerns that these additional checks could cause delays and increased costs.

However, ministers have sought to play down possible food shortages at supermarkets and other supply chain problems.