The UK Government, in collaboration with the Scottish and Welsh Governments, has published its plan to strengthen our borders against biosecurity threats and illegal imports.

  • Draft Border Target Operating Model sets out proposals for a new world-class border system to provide protection from security and biosecurity threats
  • Government will engage with industry for six weeks before publishing final version later this year
  • Model is backed by over a £1 billion investment in border transformation across this spending review period

The UK Government, in collaboration with the Scottish and Welsh Governments, has today (5 April) published its plan to strengthen our borders against biosecurity threats and illegal imports. The draft Border Target Operating Model sets out a plan to realise the ambition of the 2025 Border Strategy to create the most effective border in the world.

The draft has been devised following extensive engagement with the Border Industry and businesses across the UK. A six week engagement period will now take place, with the final Target Operating Model to be published later this year.

The border transformation is backed by over a £1 billion investment across this spending review period, to improve how government systems and technology support the movement of goods and people across the border.

The proposed new model will prevent delays at the border through a reduction in the need for physical checks for many types of goods, and by ensuring that checks take place away from ports where this is needed to allow traffic to flow freely.

The proposals in the Target Operating Model apply to imports from all countries. These controls will ensure our environment is protected, deliver food that is safe to eat whilst maintaining security of supply for consumers, and disrupt criminal activity before it can harm our communities.

Biosecurity is vital in an increasingly uncertain world and the full controls will mean that we can protect ourselves against known and unknown threats. The controls will protect consumers, businesses, and the economy as a whole against disease threats such as African Swine Fever and Xylella.

The proposed Target Operating Model secures Great Britain’s borders against such threats while making it as easy as possible to do business. To limit the burden on businesses, our new proposed risk-based global model will use data and technology to simplify and streamline import trade processes.

Central to this proposed model is the new Single Trade Window, delivered from 2023 to be fully operational by 2027. This technology will streamline processes for traders, who will only need to submit information once and in one place.

The government will also test further simplified processes by piloting an ambitious programme of trusted trader assurance schemes.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, said:

The publication of our draft Border Target Operating Model is a huge step forward for the safety, security and efficiency of our borders. Our proposals strike a balance between giving consumers and businesses confidence while reducing the costs and friction for businesses, which in turn will help to grow the economy.

Biosecurity Minister Lord Benyon said:

It is vital that we have strong border controls in place. Invasive diseases could cost our farms and businesses billions of pounds, threaten our food safety and break confidence in UK exports around the world. That is why we are working hand in glove with businesses to devise a strong system that works for the nation.

Amanda Francis, Chief Executive of the Association of International Courier & Express Services, said:

International express operators support the Government’s plans to improve efficiencies at the border to ease the flow of goods and minimise costs of trade for UK businesses.  We particularly welcome the proportionate risk based approach this draft Target Operating Model adopts and the proposals to reduce the data requirements for safety and security and allow the use of Transit Security Accompanying Documents.  We hope to work with Government to implement these proposals and look at other areas of simplification building on a trusted operator approach.

Gavin Stedman, Port Health & Public Protection Director at London Port Health Authority said:

We welcome the publication of the TOM which will provide the basis for consistent risk based checks across EU and non-EU trade. The establishment of a dynamic and flexible system will afford greater efficiency and transparency allowing us to be more responsive to demands, thus balancing biosecurity and trade needs at our borders.

William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

The BCC is a big believer in the shift to a digital trade system. If it is done properly then smaller firms will see benefits when it comes to importing goods into Great Britain.

Providing certainty for business is crucial and the focus must now be on delivering to the timescales set out. This will need a concerted effort to get the physical and digital infrastructure in place.

It is then vital that companies, here and across the world, involved in sourcing and supply chains, are properly prepared for these changes and the introduction of new trusted trader arrangements.

We look forward to working closely with the UK Government and businesses over the coming months to make sure this switchover runs as smoothly as possible.

A spokesperson for the Fresh Produce Consortium said:

The Fresh Produce Consortium supports the long-awaited publication of the draft Border Target Operating Model. The UK Government is taking its opportunity to implement a world leading, least-cost border solution. We will work with the UK Government to facilitate responsible companies in the fresh produce, flower and plant sector to utilise their expertise to best effect to maximise efficiency, food safety and biosecurity.

Notes to editors:

  • The draft Target Operating Model proposes implementation of controls through three major milestones:
    • 31 October 2023 – The introduction of health certification on imports of medium risk animal products, plants, plant products and high risk food (and feed) of non-animal origin from the EU.
    • 31 January 2024 – The introduction of documentary and risk-based identity and physical checks on medium risk animal products, plants, plant products and high risk food (and feed) of non-animal origin from the EU. At this point Imports of Sanitary and Phytosanitary goods from the rest of the world will begin to benefit from the new risk based model.
    • 31 October 2024 – Safety and Security declarations for EU imports will come into force from 31 October 2024. Alongside this, we will introduce a reduced dataset for imports and use of the UK Single Trade Window will remove duplication where possible across different pre-arrival datasets.
  • It is our firm intention to proceed with the first milestone on 31 October 2023, the introduction of health certification on medium risk animal products, high risk food and feed of non-animal origin imported from the EU, and phytosanitary certificates for phytosanitary goods imported from the EU. Businesses should work with their supply chains to prepare for this change now.
  • The TOM also outlines that new checks and controls will be introduced for Irish goods moving from Ireland directly to Great Britain. In accordance with the Windsor Framework, Northern Ireland businesses will retain unfettered access to their most important market in Great Britain, whether moving goods directly or indirectly through Irish ports.
  • The implementation dates for the second and third milestones at ports receiving Irish goods direct from Ireland on the west coast will be clarified in the final version of the Target Operating Model we publish later this year.
  • We will make any required changes to legislation to support the delivery of the Target Operating Model when parliamentary time allows.
Published 5 April 2023