Some of Britain’s biggest sea ports are considering legal action against the government to recover the costs of building border control posts they fear will never be used, after confirmation that post-Brexit import checks will be delayed for a fourth time.
Controls on food and animal products would not be introduced until at least 2023, said Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit opportunities minister, in a written statement published on Thursday.
His announcement provoked fury from the owners of ports who said they had wasted millions of pounds to hurriedly install border infrastructure.
The British Ports Association (BPA), a lobby group for the industry, said it was concerned the expensively built border posts may never be used. The lobby group said its members would ask for permission to bulldoze the new buildings if the government confirmed this was the case.
An industry source said some port companies would seek to recover costs such as construction, as well as the money spent recruiting staff to start in July.
Checks on meat were due to start on 1 July and on dairy on 1 September, with all remaining foods including fish and composite foods to be subject to checks from 1 November. Rees-Mogg told MPs the government would target the end of 2023 for a new controls regime – three years after the Brexit transition period ended. He said the move could save British businesses “up to £1bn in annual costs”.