Brexit border checks headache for Jersey farmers

Picture: JON GUEGAN. (37538750)

THE government has pledged not to inflict “cumbersome red tape” on Jersey farmers as additional post-Brexit border checks are set to be introduced over the coming months.

Jersey Farmers Union president Dougie Richardson meanwhile warned that “anything that restricts trade” is a “potential nuisance” – and that his members were already “drowning” in bureaucracy.

The additional checks, due to come into force in the UK on 30 April, will affect young plants and some animal products which are imported from the EU.

According to the UK National Farmers’ Union, these could pose an “existential threat” to fruit and flower growers.

Soft fruit plants, including strawberries and raspberries, as well as tomatoes, fruit trees and nursery plants often start life in European countries before being imported to the UK.

Under current rules, some imported plants are checked by government inspectors, often prioritised based on risk. The changes mean that the government will check all of these imports, leading to potential delay and damage.

Environment Minister Steve Luce said: “Jersey’s Border Operating Model post-Brexit will be broadly in line with that of the UK, complementing and working with their measures, with some appropriate adjustments reflecting the Jersey context and high health status of its livestock industries.”

This means, he said, that there will be “some proportional, additional requirements” for those importing some animal products and plants into Jersey from outside the British islands and direct from the EU.

Deputy Luce continued: “Our aim is to achieve the right levels of protection for animal, plant and human health, but to balance that with minimising restrictions on trade and avoiding over-cumbersome red tape.

“We’re working closely with Defra (UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) to ensure we’re consistent on what are deemed to be potentially risky imports, and will adopt similar checks on produce and documentation.”

He added that “exact details” of the model and timetable were yet to be finalised, but officers were working on a “Trusted Trader Scheme” to allow some businesses to apply many aspects of the border controls on their own imports, providing options to minimise burdens on frequent imports.

“We’re committed to engaging closely with stakeholders in the coming weeks to make sure any new processes work for them,” he added.

Mr Richardson, who represents the Island’s farming community, said: “Anything that restricts trade, in any way shape or form, is a potential nuisance.

“It is a fact of life, but we need to try and keep these checks to a minimum, which is common sense.”

He said that farmers were already “drowning” in red tape and that workdays had doubled in length, causing an increase in staff costs, and overall costs, to process paperwork.

“As more and more legislation and paperwork comes in, we have longer working hours, which costs more, becomes more stressful, less enjoyable, and frustrations can boil over,” he said.

He referred to French farmers who took to the streets last month to protest against government interference in their trade.

Mr Richardson further said that the checks could be a “storm in a teacup”, but he did not know which animal products and plants the new rules would affect, and therefore did not know the extent of the problem.

However, he said it could present a problem for anyone “not used” to processing paperwork.

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