Defra confident of ‘smooth and orderly transfer’ to post-Brexit import IT system

Minister says incoming platform has been subjected to ‘intense scrutiny’
Photo: Flickr/lozikiki

By Sam Trendall

09 Dec 2020

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is confident that, following the end of the Brexit transition period, there will be a “smooth and orderly” migration to the new IT system for managing the importation of food and plants to the UK.

Traders bringing fruit, vegetables or plants into this country currently use the PEACH system to manage the import process. The eDomero platform is the equivalent tool for exports and, according to Defra, the digital service can address users’ need for services such as “plant passporting, potato classification, certification and import licensing”.

In the early part of next year these systems will each be replaced: IPAFFS will be available for importers of “live animals, animal products and high risk food and feed not of animal origin”; while EHC Online will allow exporters to obtain certificates for trade with the remaining EU member states, as well as other countries around the world.

There has been much focus of late on the IT systems in use at the UK border, and whether they are ready for the end of the Brexit transition period – which is now little more than three weeks away. Last week, business leaders in Northern Ireland said they had “grave concerns” about HM Revenue and Customs platforms including the Customs Declaration Service, and the Goods Vehicle Movement Service 

But, according to Defra minister Victoria Prentis, her department’s transfer from the outgoing import and export platforms to new systems is on track, and the incoming tools have been tested to ensure they will be able to handle the demands of the post-Brexit world.

“The timing and sequencing of this migration will ensure a smooth and orderly transfer between systems and will allow sufficient time for users to become familiar with the new service. We will be providing comprehensive training and support before, during and after migration,” she said.

“All current and new IT systems have undergone intense scrutiny and stress testing to ensure they can cope with the volumes of plant imports we are anticipating.”

Answering a written parliamentary question from fellow Conservative MP Simon Baines, Prentis said plants and foodstuffs arriving from the EU will be subject to extra checks from next year – with traders also facing additional costs for bringing them into the country.

“The highest-risk items – to be regulated from January – are those assessed as presenting a significant risk of introducing harmful pests and diseases from the EU,” she said.

“These risk-based checks will be in line with World Trade Organization SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) principles and consistent with our obligations under the EU Withdrawal Act, where we need to ensure that requirements and processes in retained EU law are corrected so that they are operable at a UK level and focused on UK risks.”

Prentis added: “For goods imported from the EU, GB will be carrying out a phased implementation of import checks which will be aligned to the risks posed by different regulated commodities. Lower-risk goods will receive a lower frequency of checks.

"Fees need to be adapted, therefore, to ensure there is no over-recovery of costs. We will begin charging for import services, on goods arriving from the EU, from 1 April 2021. This will enable a more accurate calculation of the fees and will allow businesses and government to implement the change successfully.

"The methodology used to calculate fees for plant health services was agreed with the trade following a fees review and consultation in 2017. We will consider the impact on SMEs again in our next fees review and subsequent consultation.”

Sam Trendall is editor of CSW's sister publication PublicTechnology, where this story first appeared.

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