The Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) – what does it mean?

Posted on 26 Jan 2024 by The Manufacturer

The long-awaited introduction of the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) will come into force on 31 January, introducing new requirements that will impact importers of animals, plants and plant products. The scheme is designed to modernise the border and speed up controls.

Here, Marco Forgione, Director General at the Institute of Export and International Trade, give his input of the model and what manufactures can expect. “The long-awaited Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) will help to readdress some of the commercial disadvantages that UK businesses have been facing post-Brexit. BTOM’s implementation has been delayed five times previously and this is something that cannot be postponed again. It is essential timelines remain in place so that businesses can prepare appropriately.

“At present, goods from the EU enter the UK without certification and checks, apart from those required for the highest risk items. The Border Target Operating Model introduces proportionate controls on animal and plant products that will protect the agri-food sector and public health.

“Going forward trade checks will be streamlined and should make the UK’s borders the most effective in the world.

“More than 70% of the businesses with whom we have spoken remain concerned about potential teething problems. Issues which will impact prices and availability. UK businesses and those trading in the UK can help mitigate issues by ensuring they prepare for these changes. Businesses need to make sure they are communicating with all of their supply chain now.

An infographic explaining the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM)

“It is vital that businesses affected by these changes are aware of what is happening, when, and what the impact to them will be. Small firms we have spoken to have reported mixed levels of awareness and understanding. The good news is there is guidance and support out there. But the time to make the most of that guidance is now.

“BTOM is an important and much-needed step forward for UK trade. In the long-term it will help reduce costs and friction for businesses, which in turn will help to grow the economy.”

Marco also responded to the fears that fruit and vegetable prices could increase in the UK amid BTOM confusion. Under BTOM, fruit and vegetable imports from the EU will be classified as ‘low’ or ‘medium’ risk, with each category requiring different processes and levels of checks. This week, DEFRA has suddenly re-classified certain fruits and vegetables, potentially leaving food businesses on both sides of the Channel confused about how to prepare for the new rules, and worried that this will lead to increased prices.

He added: “The way these changes have been handled is concerning. At a time when business is preparing for the most significant modernisation of the UK border in several generations, the lack of communication on this reclassification of fruit and vegetable products is not very encouraging. This reclassification means that unexpectedly a range of fruit and vegetables are now subject to new processes and administrative requirements.

“We know that businesses within the UK and EU, particularly SMEs, are struggling to get to grips with the 31 January changes and have concerns about the new physical checks which will come in to force at the end of April.

“The UK is in the processes of creating a world leading, digitally enabled, risk-based intelligence system for the effective border system, and we support the government’s ambition with the BTOM. Business leaders have revealed to me their frustration that their preparation efforts are undermined because of a lack of clear communication. There is a risk that these changes and the way information has been shared could result in additional costs for the exporter, the importer and ultimately the consumer.”

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