A further delay to post-Brexit border controls has been welcomed at the heart of the UK seafood sector.
Looming deadlines of October and January for paper and then physical checks have been pushed back to January and July.
Fresh fish supply is one of the most critical impacts to delays, with frictionless trade a key phrase since the campaigns ahead of the 2016 vote began.
Port hold ups for perishable goods impact on shelf life, with seafood one of the most susceptible.
And while teams and major new inspection port infrastructure have been established, it is the start of the route where preparation is still lacking – with vets required to authorise the vital European Health Certificates, previously not required.
Simon Dwyer, secretariat to Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association, believes it could have led to less seafood arriving had the government pushed on.
“We welcome the delay in terms of fresh fish supplies coming into the cluster and on to the market. – the delay is needed,” he said.
“The Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association has been lobbying local MPs, the Minister of Fisheries when she visited and the Secretary of State to have this these delays in place, because it gives the senders of fish – in particular Iceland, Norway and the Faroes, additional time to adjust to the new requirements for European Health Certificates.
“If you look at the geography of these places, they need the authorisation but they haven’t got the vets in the right place – some areas are the equivalent size of Wales and it is like having the fish landed in Cardiff and the nearest vet in Holyhead. It has been difficult to adjust systems.
“We welcome the news, and I’ve shared it with the Icelandic and Norwegian ambassadors.”
Mr Dwyer hopes the second delay will provide adequate time to transition the system to digital.
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“We are hopeful that by the time the new deadlines come, rules will be in place that the EHC can be digitised and sent virtually, rather than having a physical document accompanying the goods,” he said.
Westminster has described the move as a “pragmatic new timetable” – with the global pandemic described as affecting supply chains in the UK and Europe.
Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, Lord Frost, said: “We want businesses to focus on their recovery from the pandemic rather than have to deal with new requirements at the border, which is why we’ve set out a pragmatic new timetable for introducing full border controls.
“Businesses will now have more time to prepare for these controls which will be phased in throughout 2022.
“The government remains on track to deliver the new systems, infrastructure and resourcing required.”