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Today the Border Target Operating Model for goods trade was published, detailing the timeline for the implementation of new controls aimed at enhancing UK biosecurity and establishing a world-leading border system.

In alignment with the 2025 Border Strategy, the model lays out a new international framework for security and biosecurity measures. For the first time, this includes controls on imports from the EU, as well as utilising Brexit freedoms to streamline import controls from other global markets. The controls bear resemblance to the requirements already in place for exports to the EU, which many businesses will find familiar.

The newly implemented controls are designed to defend the UK against foreign plant and animal diseases, thereby securing our crucial agricultural sectors and food supply chains. Additionally, the controls will safeguard against illicit imports like firearms and drugs.

By smartly integrating data and technology, the Border Target Operating Model aims to streamline the trading process for businesses. It employs an intelligent, risk-based approach to eliminate redundancies and minimise the data and paperwork required from businesses for importing goods, saving an estimated £520 million annually.

The model was devised through comprehensive consultations with the UK border industry, businesses, and the Scottish and Welsh Devolved Administrations. Due to feedback from industry stakeholders, the Government has postponed the remaining sanitary and phytosanitary controls and full customs controls for non-qualifying Northern Ireland goods until January 2024. 

Additional controls on items like medium-risk animal products and safety and Security declarations for EU imports have also been rescheduled.

Pilot tests of new technologies like distributed ledgers, smart seals, and GPS trackers have shown promise in further optimising the UK border system, reducing both costs and administrative load for businesses.

The Single Trade Window, another flagship project, will also use data and technology to further simplify and consolidate the import and export processes, providing a unified portal for trade data submission.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, said, “Our Border Target Operating Model will ensure more efficient trading for businesses, protect against biosecurity threats and further crack down on illegal imports such as firearms and drugs.

“By making maximum use of data and new technologies, our innovative yet risk-based approach is key to delivering a world-class border system. Once fully implemented, these important post-Brexit measures will, I believe, bring considerable benefits to the UK economy and to UK trade, and the Government stands ready to support businesses through this transition.”

Lord Benyon, Minister for Biosecurity at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said, “Protecting UK biosecurity through effective border controls on the goods that we import is so important. These border controls safeguard the food that we eat and protect animal and plant health across the UK.

“The Border Target Operating Model sets out our innovative system of border controls, which will continue to uphold UK biosecurity and support trade with other countries.”

William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said, “Businesses will be pleased with this clarity as they prepare for the challenging shift to a digital trade system. The focus must now be on delivering the Single Trade Window to the timescales set out. The new approach to digitalising borders for goods movements could bring real benefits to the SMEs we represent, to trade, and to the economy.

“The critical thing is preparedness. Businesses are making investment and supply chain decisions for the long term and need to be confident that the physical and digital infrastructure around the GB border is going to be in place on time.”

Nigel Jenney, CEO of the Fresh Produce Consortium, said, “FPC welcomes the publication of the final Border Target Operating Model. It’s clear, Government has acted upon our concerns and will now implement a unique border approach for the benefit of consumers and industry. This focussed risk-based approach will reinforce UK biosecurity and promote self-regulation to minimise supply chain disruption.

“Let’s be clear, challenges remain. However, this is a bold step forward to achieve our ambition to become a world-leading destination of choice promoting imports and exports of fantastic fresh produce, and flowers and plants.”

Marco Forgione, Director General of The Institute of Export & International Trade said, “The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) welcomes the innovative approach set out in the Border Target Operating Model. The shift to risk based, digital insights and targeting will ensure the smooth flow of goods and maintain strong security and biosecurity controls.

“The Border Target Operating Model should not be looked at in isolation. There are several other key initiatives taking place as part of the Border 2025 strategy aimed at making the UK border one of the most effective and efficient. This approach has the potential to convert our borders into engines which support economic growth. In addition we encourage Government to move as fast as possible to implement the findings of the customs initiatives announced at the Spring Budget.

“What’s really important is that UK businesses and those trading into UK markets prepare for these changes. The Border Target Operating Model helps to redress some of the commercial disadvantages that UK businesses have been facing.

“The Institute’s focus is on supporting businesses trading with the UK from the EU and the Rest of the World to understand the requirements of Border Target Operating Model and provide practical assistance in complying with the new system. The UK can reap the benefits of this world-class new digital border if businesses of all sizes are equipped and armed with the right knowledge. Now is the time to prioritise educating businesses on trading sustainably, safely and securely.”