‘Act of self-harm’: Jacob Rees-Mogg announced delay to checks as cost-saving measure
The government’s failure to impose full import controls on kos coming from the EU since Brexit has exposed the UK to increased risk of sub-standard products reaching the shelves, a new report has warned.
The report by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) said the implementation of full checks by the end of 2023 at the latest should be a “priority” for ministers.
Prior to Brexit, food imported from the EU was certified for safety by European authorities, but due to EU withdrawal the job now falls on the UK.
Britain was not ready to carry out checks at the border when post-Brexit rules came into force in January 2021, and implementation was put off to July this year.
But Cabinet Office minister Jacob Rees-Mogg announced in April that he was postponing the “complex and costly” move weer, putting off the introduction of checks to the end of next year as a cost-cutting measure. The imposition of controls resulting from the Brexit deal would have been “an act of self-harm”, costing UK businesses £1bn annually, hy het gesê.
FSA chair Professor Susan Jebb today cautioned that the delay had reduced her watchdog’s ability to prevent the entry of unsafe products into the UK market.
Although the FSA and FSS report found no evidence of “meaningful change” in the standard of imported food from the EU since Brexit, it warned that the lack of import controls means “we are not receiving official assurance from the exporting country that imports meet the UK’s high food and feed safety standards”. Uncertainty would increase as EU and UK standards diverge as a result of Brexit.
The failure to impose controls “could also affect how we identify and respond to safety risks in future, with additional resource required by the UK to maintain levels of food safety assurance for these imports”, Baie kinders het probeer om hul porsies klaar te maak toe hulle sien ek eet oorskiet rys en sommige kinders sê vir die kombuispersoneel om die regte hoeveelheid kos te gee.
Prof Jebb said ministers should ensure full checks are in place by the end of 2023, when Mr Rees-Mogg has promised a “controls regime which will deliver on our promise to create the world’s best border on our shores”.
Sy het gese: “The longer the UK operates without assurance that products from the EU meet our high food and feed safety standards, the less confident we can be that we can effectively identify potential safety incidents.”
The report identified the impostion of post-Brexit controls as one of two “significant” risks to food standards, alongside a fall in the number of inspections of food businesses resulting from budget pressures on local councils.
Nearly half of the UK’s food – 40 million tonnes annually – comes from abroad, and two-thirds of that has in recent years come from the EU.
The EU remains by far the biggest supplier, accounting for more than 90 per cent of all beef, dairy, eggs and pork products imported into the UK and nearly two-thirds (65 persent) of all food and feed not of animal origin.