Ministers have today played down concerns that fresh post-Brexit red tape on food and drink imports will harm consumers.

The long-delayed new rules are part of the UK Government’s introduction of a series of checks that came into force today (January 31).

However, fears have been expressed about disruption to supply chains and a hike in prices. MPs also warned that the new border regime could present “serious biosecurity risks” to the UK.

The government says the checks are required to protect UK biosecurity prevent pests and diseases from being imported, and level the playing field for UK exporters.

Their own estimates predict that the cost of trading with Europe will increase by £330m a year and increase food inflation - a key driver of the cost of living crisis - by 0.2% over the next three years.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said that there would be “no interruption” to food on supermarket shelves due to the new rules.

Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to Paris, he said: “The UK has always been a consumer of international products and unsurprisingly French products are very, very popular in the UK. We’re not going to lose that appetite.

“We’re going to make sure that these sensible, responsible checks are done in a way that makes no interruption to the supply of food to the shelves, so people don’t need to worry about that.

“We of course want to make sure that we maintain good quality food available on the shelves and we’ve always been able to do that. And we will continue doing that now.”

However, Peter Hardwick of the British Meat Processors' Association told Sky News: "This is absolutely anathema to the current government but we should sit down with the European Union, negotiate a comprehensive veterinary agreement based on alignment.

'That would wipe away this problem overnight'

"It would remove all the costs, and would also significantly resolve the issues in relation to goods moving to Northern Ireland. I know that's a difficult thing politically but that's what we believe should be done."

On the eve of the arrangements coming into force, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee wrote to Secretary of State Steve Barclay to express unease about some of the preparations the Government has made.

Recommended reading:

Goods from Britain have faced similar controls from the EU since it left the bloc’s single market at the start of 2021, but the UK has repeatedly put off checks in the other direction.

Writing to the Defra Secretary, committee chairman Sir Robert Goodwill said he was concerned over plans that would see departmental funding for spot checks on products of animal origin at Dover reduced by around 70%.

The Conservative MP said: “We remain concerned about the location of the physical checks that will be undertaken for commercial loads.”