LONDON (AP) — Britain announced Thursday that it is postponing until the end of 2023 some checks on imports from the European Union that are required under post-Brexit trade rules, citing economic disruption caused by the war in Ukraine.
It’s the fourth time the U.K. has delayed checks it agreed to as part of its divorce deal with the EU. The two sides have been bickering since Britain left the 27-nation bloc about the new arrangements, with a set of special rules for Northern Ireland proving a particularly tough sticking point that risks sparking a trade war.
Since Britain left the EU’s single market at the end of 2020, imports from the bloc are supposed to be subject to the same checks as goods from everywhere else in the world. But while some controls have been introduced by the U.K., others have been delayed.
The British government said measures that were due to take effect from July 1 — including physical checks on fresh food and a ban on EU sausages and chilled meats — “will no longer be introduced this year.”
It said “Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and the recent rise in global energy costs, have had a significant effect on supply chains that are still recovering from the pandemic,” and checks would put a further burden on struggling businesses.
Britain said it would aim to bring in the new measures “in an improved way” at the end of 2023.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, said Britain was “not introducing the checks as planned” and was “working on a new model” that would use the latest data and technology to ease burdens on businesses.
Like other countries, Britain has experienced months of sporadic supply problems, with gaps on supermarket shelves, fast-food outlets running out of chicken and some pubs running dry of a full selection of beer. Experts cite a perfect storm of factors, including Brexit and COVID-19, leading to worker shortages in key areas such as trucking. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has driven up cost of essentials including fuel and cooking oil, has made things worse.
U.K.-EU talks on resolving differences over trade rules have made limited progress. Britain’s Conservative government has accused the 27-nation bloc of being needlessly “purist” in its approach to the rules for Northern Ireland, while the EU says Britain is failing to honor a legally binding deal that Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to
Britain has threatened to act unilaterally to suspend parts of the divorce deal if progress is not made.