The British government will delay imposing full post-Brexit import controls on goods from the European Union by a further three months, it said on Tuesday, pushing the start date back to January 2024.
Britain left the EU's single market in January 2021 and has delayed full implementation of border controls several times due to worries about disruption at ports and the risk of adding to a cost-of-living crisis.
In contrast, Brussels immediately introduced checks and paperwork for goods moving from Britain into the EU, leading to delays and higher costs, and making it challenging for some businesses to compete.
The government had said in April that it would require health certifications on some animal products, plants and food and feed goods coming from Europe by Oct 31.
"Having listened to the views of industry, the government has agreed to a delay of three months for the introduction of remaining sanitary and phytosanitary controls, as well as full customs controls for non-qualifying Northern Ireland goods," it said in a statement.
Further requirements, such as physical checks and safety declarations are due to be introduced in stages through 2024. The date for some of these, such as checks on medium risk animal products and plants, is also being delayed by three months to give businesses time to prepare, the government said.
The government's new Border Target Operating Model, published on Tuesday, would make smarter use of data and technology and remove duplication, reducing the volume of data and paperwork required from businesses when importing goods.
Those changes would save businesses around 520 million pounds ($655 million) a year compared to the original import model which had been due to be introduced in 2022, it said.
Also planned is a 'Single Trade Window' system to simplify and streamline import and export trade processes so information will need to be submitted by traders just once.
"Businesses will be pleased with this clarity as they prepare for the challenging shift to a digital trade system," said William Bain, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce.
"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."