The claim of unreadiness was made by the UK Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) following a survey of its members. Additionally, one in eight of the companies polled said they would not be able to prepare for them.
The new rules require importers to give advance notice of European imports of food, drink and products of animal origin, and to make declarations and pay relevant tariffs at the point of entry upon arrival. They should have come into force a year ago, but were delayed for six months before being postponed again by the same length of time.
Goods without a valid declaration and/or customs clearance will be held in the port of entry, or quite possibly transferred to an inland border facility for documentary or physical checks.
To complicate matters further, January 1 is also the date on which changes are made to the commodity codes used by the World Customs Organisation for all imported and exported goods.
Even assuming that smaller UK wine importers are better set-up for these changes than other sectors, there are significant chances of the delays experienced in 2021 becoming even longer. The British Road Hauliers Association estimated that 40,000 additional customs officers would be needed to handle the new mountains of declarations. This figure was rejected by the government which declined to provide an alternative.
Those who like to think long-term will be encouraged that Britain is beginning to trial high tech solutions in order to simplify imports and exports in 2025.
UK businesses importing European wine in 2022 – and their suppliers - will not find that news very reassuring.