A Look Inside the UK's Latest Customs Border Target Operating Model and Its Implications

A Look Inside the UK's Latest Customs Border Target Operating Model and Its Implications

The UK government has released a draft Border Target Operating Model that proposes changes to security and sanitary controls at the border. This new approach will apply to security controls (involving all imports) and sanitary and phytosanitary controls (applying to imports of live animals, animal products, plants, and plant products).

In addition, the draft document outlines how these controls will be streamlined, digitised, and eventually integrated into the UK's new Single Trade Window. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the proposed changes and their potential impact on importers and the broader trading community.


Safety & Security Controls:

The following points outline the changes that the BTOM (Border Target Operating Model) will bring to the Safety and Security data requirements for certain categories of movement. These changes aim to:

  • Reduce the Safety and Security data requirements.
  • Make submitting Safety and Security data easier through the UK Single Trade window.
  • Improve the use of data by the UK Government to remove duplication.
  • Remove Safety and Security requirements for the following categories of movement: certain outbound freeport goods, outbound transit and fish from UK waters landed in non-UK ports.


Sanitary & Phytosanitary (SPS) Controls:

It is important to note that the new model will have the following three key elements:

  • A new global risk-based approach: live animals, germinal products, products of animal origin, animal by-products, plants and plant products will be categorised as high, medium or low risk, with controls appropriately weighted against the risks posed both by the commodity and the country of origin.
  • Simplified and digitised health certificates: GB will digitise phytosanitary certificates from 2023 with take-up depending on trade partners’ readiness. Implement simplified export health certificates in Spring 2023 for animal products, and deliver digitised export health certificates in 2024, leading to more automated use of data.
  • Use trusted trader schemes: pilot schemes with industry where authorised importers of plants, plant products and some animal products may be eligible for streamlined controls. To qualify, they will need to provide enhanced assurances and evidence that they are meeting the regulatory requirements and standards.


EU Goods Current Position

At present, goods from the EU enter the UK without health certification and SPS checks, apart from those required for the highest-risk live animals, germinal products and high-risk plants. The BTOM introduces risk-based controls that will be implemented over three milestone dates: -

  • 31 October 2023 - The introduction of health certification on imports of medium-risk animal products (such as meat, dairy, fish), 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*.


 *DEFRA have indicated that they will confirm when and how they will introduce: The SPS documentary, physical and identity checks, and Safety and Security declarations for goods moving directly from Ireland to GB in the final Border Target Operating Model when published later this year.


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, DEFRA will introduce a reduced dataset for imports, and the use of the UK Single Trade Window will remove duplication where possible across different pre-arrival datasets. 


Irish Position

Exporters of Irish SPS Products to Great Britain will face new requirements from October 31st 2023, with the introduction of the requirement for

  • Export Health Certificates and Phytosanitary Certificates for Irish medium-risk animal products, plant and plant products and high-risk food and feed of non-animal origin moving directly from Ireland into GB ports.  
  • Such Export Health Certificates will be issued by the competent authority in Ireland, namely the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine and the Health Service Executive, as appropriate.  This will be the responsibility of the Irish exporter to ensure this is requested from the Irish competent authority.  Further clarity on the process for requesting such certificates will be provided by DAFM and the HSE. 

The importer into Great Britain will need to complete.

  • SPS Prenotification, this is in addition to customs requirements. 

If the Irish exporter is also fulfilling GB Importer’s responsibilities, you will need to be aware of the prenotification and customs requirements. 



The Next Steps: Engagement Phase

 The UK government has launched a six-week engagement period starting from now until May 19th, during which they seek to gather feedback from industry experts on the draft Border Target Operating Model. The government is eager to hear from businesses and individuals impacted by the proposed changes to security and sanitary controls for imports of live animals, animal products, plants, and plant products.

To facilitate this, Defra is hosting a series of events to help stakeholders understand how the new operating model will affect the import and export processes. You can attend these events and share your thoughts and suggestions via the online portal. Your valuable feedback will help shape the final version of the Border Target Operating Model.

The full draft Target Operating Model is available to view online. To read a copy, please click here.

It is important that you understand the requirements for the type of food product you are exporting and the terms of supply to ensure that all necessary documentation is completed on time and provided to the necessary party.



Should you wish to discuss your food import/export requirements, we would be delighted to assist you with the process. Please contact Carol Lynch (clynch@bdo.ie) or Marie Farrell (mfarrell@bdo.ie) to find out more.