Fresh food imports delayed by over 24 hours due to IT crash at Brexit border

Major Delays at UK Border Cause Chaos for Fresh Food Imports from EU

The UK border has been experiencing IT systems failures that have resulted in significant delays for fresh food shipments from the EU. Importers have reported chaos at the busiest border post, with lorries being held for over 24 hours. According to sources, a key software system crashed over the weekend, causing shipments of meat, cheese, fresh food, and flowers to be processed manually, resulting in long waiting times.

This system failure has occurred just two weeks after the implementation of new processes that the government had promised would be “world-leading”. In late April, physical checks on food and plant imports from the EU were introduced as part of the post-Brexit border regime that had been long-delayed. These imports are now routed through a new border facility 22 miles inland at Sevington in Kent, where paperwork is supposed to be cleared and any physical checks carried out.

However, the recent IT systems failures have caused significant problems for border staff and importers. The most severe issues were experienced last weekend, particularly affecting imports from Italy. Patricia Michelson, founder of La Fromagerie, a company that imports cheese and other produce from Europe, told Sky News that her consignments of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, and cured meats were delayed by more than 48 hours. The delivery, which was scheduled for 6am on Monday, did not arrive until Tuesday morning after the lorry was held up at Sevington. This delay resulted in some of the produce being spoiled or unfit for sale due to inadequate refrigeration.

Michelson expressed her frustration, stating, “It is unforgivable. We have spent days and weeks preparing for the new systems, ensuring that we have the correct paperwork, and double-checking to ensure everything runs smoothly. Then we find out that the systems have crashed, apparently due to a power outage, and our goods are being turned back and held for hours. The government spent millions on this new system, and yet it fails on the second time of asking. All we received from DEFRA was a statement saying that everything is under control, when in reality it is complete chaos.”

The system failures have added to the already difficult post-Brexit border controls for small independent businesses like La Fromagerie. Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Association, also expressed his concerns, saying that his members have been facing “total chaos” at the border since the weekend. He fears that these ongoing issues will have a significant impact on traders.

In response to the IT systems failures, a DEFRA spokesperson confirmed that, three days after the crash, the systems are still not restored. They stated, “A power outage over the weekend affected one of the systems required to process imports. While there were no significant delays for the majority of vehicles at the border, we immediately activated contingency arrangements for affected vehicles, working alongside HMRC and Border Force. We are working diligently to resolve the issue and anticipate that the systems will return to normal functioning soon. Our teams have been working closely with traders to ensure efficient and swift completion of checks since their introduction.”

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