Two years on… Brexit is still an ongoing concern

Bruce Harnett is Managing Director of Kernock Park Plants, Cornwall – a grower and distributor of young ornamental plants. Kernock offers a wide range comprising over 1,200 different varieties of seasonal and perennial plants. Kernock is the UK headquarters of Proven Winners. In 2020, Harnett wrote a column about the uncertainty of Brexit and how this would impact our sector. At the time, he expressed his “feelings of dread that we might not understand the true situation until the eleventh hour”. Two years on, for the February 2022 edition of FCI, we ask Harnett how he feels about the new requirements post-Brexit.

The challenges of importing and exporting into and from the UK continue. Some shipments will almost certainly be delayed following the next phase of implementing customs inspections. Importers are simply not aware of the paperwork required, and when elements are missed or misinterpreted, it can cause excessive administration and delay.

The migration over to Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS) from the Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates from the Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate (PEACH) should be manageable. We hope we will have some benefits to the new system.

However, the more significant concern is the change to the border operating model for July 2022. The suggestion that 100% propagation material will be inspected from that point at the border control posts or control points is simply unimaginable. The magnitude of the task is not workable. Consider the hundreds of artic loads with mixed consignments of plants alone that enter the UK every day with many exporters destined for multiple importers and a wide variety of commodities. Some items need inspections that are not accessible without unloading the whole lorry. Unloading, inspection and re-loading will not be acceptable for the hauliers, and there are simply not enough hours in the day to consider this approach. I have written to our plant health, and I understand that they are considering the facts.

For more than a year, I have urged them to physically run through the intended process for a few days at a border control post in spring, even just to grasp the scale of the task before implementation in July. I would be very interested to know if they still believe that this is possible without causing untenable delays that will cause chaos and unthinkable loss to the industry.

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