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A French Camembert cheese sits with meat and cheese products from across Europe in a shopping basket inside a Morrisons supermarket, operated by Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc, in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. Morrisons reported a growth in profits in their most recent financial year, boosted by food price inflation. Photographer: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Meat and dairy products imported to Britain from the European Union are among the goods that are subject to extra checks from Wednesday. Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty ImagesLondonCNN — 

New border controls on some of Britain’s food imports from the European Union came into force Wednesday for the first time since Brexit, increasing red tape for businesses and threatening to drive up prices for consumers.

Meat, eggs, fish and dairy are among a raft of fresh produce that will now require “export health certificates” and other paperwork before entering the United Kingdom.

According to the UK government’s own estimates, the checks — including physical inspections from April — will cost British businesses about £330 million ($419 million) annually and increase food inflation by about 0.2 percentage points over three years. Some industry experts are warning of a greater impact on inflation.

The new controls mark the first time EU food producers must face the hassle of post-Brexit border bureaucracy since Britain exited the bloc’s vast internal market and customs union in January 2021. The country quit the EU a year earlier, in January 2020, following a divisive referendum in 2016.

UK food producers exporting to the EU have been subject to full border controls for three years, but the British government delayed the introduction of checks on food coming the other way five times over fears the extra controls could disrupt vital supplies.

It says the new controls will help prevent the import of diseases and pests from plant and animal products, while making Britain’s border the “most advanced in the world.”

Britain has walked away from negotiations with Canada over a post-Brexit trade deal because of disagreements over beef and cheese.

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“The changes we’re bringing in will help keep the UK safe, while protecting our food supply chains and our agricultural sector from disease outbreaks that would cause significant economic harm,” a government spokesperson said Wednesday.

Industry groups have warned, however, that the new measures could ultimately hike prices of some staples and disrupt supplies when physical border checks are introduced at the end of April.

The British Meat Processors Association said there could be a “sudden shock to the food supply chain” because of issues ranging from a growing divergence in food safety rules between the UK and EU to a lack of EU vets available to sign export health certificates.

“Even if vets can sign off, many smaller EU suppliers will simply stop exporting to the UK due to the extra bureaucracy,” the association said in a statement earlier this month. “To put this into context, Britain relies on imports for 22% of its beef, 21% of its sheep meat and 49% of its pork, with the EU supplying the bulk of those needs.”

Annual UK food price inflation topped 19% last March, its highest rate in 45 years. It fell to 8% in December, according to official figures, which means prices are still rising but at a slower pace than a year ago.

A customer looks at some goods at the Asda supermarket, in Aylesbury, England, on August 15, 2023. UK annual inflation stands at 7.9 percent, the highest among G7 nations, while the Bank of England is tasked by the UK government with keeping annual inflation at around two percent. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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Rising food prices have been a key driver of the nation’s cost-of-living crisis, and adding cost and friction to supply chains won’t help matters.

A group of 30 trade organizations representing the UK food supply chain said last week that the new border measures would “impact the flow of critical food ingredients” from the EU to the UK.

In a six-page letter to the environment secretary, Steve Barclay, they warned, for example, that UK health certificates do not cover all EU goods imported by the food industry, meaning that ingredients such as liquid eggs mixed with sugar will no longer be allowed to enter the UK.

“British food businesses producing, for example, desserts, mayonnaise, sauces, baked goods will have insufficient supply to continue to produce these and other foods using them, impacting on food security and product availability,” they said.

Europe is the UK’s leading foreign supplier of food, accounting for more than a quarter of food consumed in Britain by value.

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