Border Target Operating Model

Availability and price pressures likely...

British Target Operating Model


Britain has postponed full implementation of post-Brexit border controls on food and fresh products five times due to worries about port disruption and the cost-of-living crisis.

However, the new Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) comes into force on 31 January 2024.

We covered details of this when it was anticipated to come in at the end of October, in our Autumn 2023 edition of Foodsight and in this blog, last year. Now it is happening and the new date has been set, we can give an update about what is happening and what it means for foodservice and food supply…

British businesses are warning of a new wave of post-Brexit trade disruption because EU exporters are not ready for UK customs changes and Britain’s port infrastructure might be unprepared.


Britain left the European Union’s single market in January 2021 but has repeatedly delayed imposing checks on EU imports. The new changes apply to imports into the UK from all countries and, for the first time, also incorporate the EU. Imports into the UK from the EU have so far not faced the complete burden of sanitary and phytosanitary checks. These are trade checks to eliminate fraud and ensure that food is safe to eat and that animals and plants are free from pests and diseases. By contrast, the EU immediately enforced its rules on UK exports back in January 2021, which contributed to the port delays experienced in 2021 and the knock on effect to the supply chain.

What's happening?

The British Government is planning to roll out the new BTOM in three phases. Initially, EU exporters of animal and plant products, such as eggs, dairy, meat and berries, will be required to present Export Health Certificates (EHCs) to British authorities. But physical checks on shipments will only start on 30 April 2024 followed by a requirement for safety and security certificates from 31 October 2024.

Britain imports up to 70% of its fresh food from the EU in the winter months, falling to about 30% in warmer months. As many as 1,000 trucks arrive at UK ports, daily. While the effects of the BTOM may not be immediately apparent, the changes will lead to longer supply chains, increased cost, and less choice.

On a positive note, for UK producers at least, it may also lead to a better trade balance with greater self-sufficiency and domestic supply.

Marco Forgione, Director General of the Institute of Export & International Trade, representing UK importers, said large EU firms would probably cope with Britain’s new rules but smaller ones – such as specialist food exporters – might struggle. Some might decide it has become too complicated to trade with the UK and stop exporting.

Foodservice operators and consumers alike could see this then leading to reduced availability of key commodities and increased pressure on prices.

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