The British Ports Association (BPA) has warned of the possibility of major disruptions across ports in the UK and the European Union (EU) if new cross-border environmental health standards are not put in place before Brexit.

The warning follows the publication of a Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s report titled ‘Brexit: Trade in Food’, which revealed that changes in UK-EU trade arrangements could lead to serious trouble for food supply chains.

BPA chief executive Richard Ballantyne said: “Perhaps one of the biggest Brexit challenges ports could face is accommodating new environmental health standards inspections at the border.

“As the report highlights, delays resulting from inspections at border would lead to increased costs, creating congestion and particular issues for perishable goods.

“Any Brexit trade deal must include an agreement to overcome the need for such inspections.”

"Post-Brexit, new port health border requirements could be a serious problem for a variety of ports, particularly at Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo) ferry ports."

According to the existing rules, animal and plant products imported by the UK and EU from a third country are required to undergo documentary, identity or physical inspections.

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The port health checks are conducted at specially designated and designed Border Inspection Posts by qualified veterinary officers from local authorities.

Due to UK’s membership with the EU, food and agricultural products have been excluded from port health controls until now.

However, once the UK exits the EU, it is claimed that the existing rules will not be sufficient to ensure these checks are carried out.

Expensive Border Inspection Posts will subsequently have to be installed at a range of UK-based ports, said BPA.

Ballantyne further added: “Post-Brexit, new port health border requirements could be a serious problem for a variety of ports, particularly at Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo) ferry ports.

“Under present EU rules, plant and animal products could be subject to a hugely disruptive inspection regime at the border.

“To require lorries to stop and undergo time-consuming inspections at ports would lead to significant disruption at the border and create congestion around ports.”

BPA also noted that it had previously held various meetings with the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which will be responsible for framing policy regarding port health inspections in the UK post-Brexit.

The organisation has expressed concern that traffic leaving the UK could still face such issues at EU ports.