National Audit Office report on ‘The UK border: Implementing an effective trade border’ – HTA comment

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On the National Audit Office report on ‘The UK border: Implementing an effective trade border’, Jennifer Pheasey, Director of Public Affairs at the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), commented:

“The HTA welcomed the opportunity to contribute to this important audit of UK government policy and delivery of border changes. As the report highlights, the costs to the UK and businesses are huge, and too many questions about effectiveness remain. Those importing SPS goods, which for us are plants and plant products, have experienced massive hikes in costs and administrative burdens since January 2021, compounded by border changes in April 2024. This directly impacts the competitiveness of our sector and its ability to invest and grow.

The report highlights our significant concerns over the ability of at-border checks to deliver biosecurity and the free flow of trade. As we set out in our letter to the Minister just a few days ago, our confidence in this is low. We need urgent engagement and action on both near-term fixes and longer-term solutions, such as an accessible trusted trader scheme or other easements.

The report raises significant doubts over the ability to fulfil crucial aspects of a UK border – such as the Single Trade Window. The environmental horticulture sector imports £770 million of plants and plant products annually, with 90% of our growers importing plants at some stage of the growing cycle. Nearly 100% are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and, in theory, subject to 100% checks and charges. We need a world-class border to ensure the environmental horticulture sector can thrive, given its substantial contributions to the UK economy, employment, environment, health, and wellbeing.”

The NAO report can be found at www.nao.org.uk

For more information:
Horticultural Trades Association
www.the-hta.org.uk

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