Small firms left scratching their heads over upcoming import rules

Press Releases 19 Apr 2024

The Government has bypassed formal channels and left small firms out of the conversation, leaving them unsure as to who they can trust.

The Government has heaped an extra layer of confusion on small firms less than two weeks before new import rules on plant and food products are due to be introduced, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has learnt. 

Officials from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) say new checks – due to come in on April 30 – may not be turned on as expected.

However, small firms have not been formally told of the changes, and instead found out after a document was leaked to the press.

Martin McTague, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“New import charges on plant and food products are supposed to be introduced in less than two weeks, but the system is in complete disarray. The Government has bypassed formal channels and left small firms out of the conversation. It’s left them unsure as to who they can trust. 

“Many have invested considerable time and money making sure they’re getting it right, but now they’re left scratching their heads at the conflicting messages coming out of Whitehall – will they or won’t they face these checks and have to start paying on April 30?

“Government has had years to get this right. Small firms deserve clarity, and they really do not have time to decode messy and unclear Whitehall messages that contradict each other. 

“These new import rules have already been delayed five times and because of that, small firms already feel like they’ve been given the runaround. Confusion takes away their ability to plan – they cannot plan if they are constantly on tenterhooks, wondering whether new rules are coming in or not. 

“The Government really ought to put small firms, the most affected by these changes, at the heart of the conversation.”

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Anna Slater

Anna Slater

Deputy Head of Media and Communications