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Staff at Sevington Internal Border Facility near Ashford to be redeployed amid post-Brexit delays

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Dozens of staff recruited to process and check food goods arriving from Europe could have to be redeployed after the government announced a further delay on new post-Brexit border controls.

The decision to delay for a fourth time the introduction of checks on certain food goods being transported to and from Europe has affected some 70 staff, recruited by the Ashford Port Health Authority specifically for that purpose.

The Sevington Inland Border Facility at Ashford. Picture: Chris Davey
The Sevington Inland Border Facility at Ashford. Picture: Chris Davey

Based at the Internal Border Facility at Sevington, off the M20 near Ashford, specialist staff may now have to be deployed elsewhere, it has emerged.

New import controls and checks were supposed to get underway in July.

But the government has recently decided the starting date should be delayed again and will not be brought in until 2023.

In a statement, the Ashford Port Health Authority said:

“We currently have 70 people on our payroll in Ashford Port roles, costing circa £2.3m in salaries which are currently being funded by DEFRA. That does not include on-costs. Our staff will continue to deliver IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing) checks and we are currently exploring options for redeployment into related roles. Meanwhile the team will also be supporting other projects during the delay and we will also continue to upskill and train our staff to prepare for live operations so we are fully ready when they begin.”

The Sevington lorry park at night
The Sevington lorry park at night

These port health authorities carry out a range of health controls, including new post-Brexit sanitary checks on imported food and infectious disease control.

Brexit opportunities Jacob Lord Rees-Mogg said the government would introduce a new regime for checks in the Autumn.

In a statement to Parliament, he said:"This new approach will apply equally to goods from the EU and goods from the rest of the world. It will be based on a proper assessment of risk, with a proportionate, risk-based and technologically advanced approach to controls."

In a statement, Defra said the further delay was needed: “The remaining import controls on EU goods will not be introduced from July 2022. We want to ensure that businesses and their customers are supported through ongoing supply chain disruption and cost of living pressures.

"It would not be right to introduce new controls at the moment that could inadvertently create further risks within critical supply chains. We will continue to support and work with individual Port Health Authorities and local stakeholders to assess and manage the impact of this decision.”

In contrast, county council trading standards officials have said a further delay would not be detrimental to its services. KCC said in a statement:“The service works flexibly, so its ports team is supported by other officers when needed, and takes a pragmatic approach to recruitment, employing new staff when intelligence justifies the need for more resource.”

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