Lawyers Welcome ‘Food For Thought’ In Latest DEFRA Guidance
Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have described the extensive new Brexit guidance for food and drink businesses published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as essential reading for those in the sector now preparing for the end of the transition period.
Covering issues such as import and export labelling, marketing and chemical regulations and data protection, lawyers have pointed to the lack of clarity in certain areas such as food labelling and harmonisation that means businesses affected will have to assume the worst case scenario.
Publication of the advice was followed by the UK Prime Minister indicating that trade talks with the EU are over, while a call by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove with 250 business leaders on 20 October, made clear the onus is now on business. Irwin Mitchell is now using its online hub to advise business what steps they need to take now on this and other Brexit related issues.
In terms of importing and exporting, by 1 January, 2021, food and drink businesses must:
- Have a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number
- Decide if they want to hire an import-export agent or make the declarations themselves
- Contact the organisation that moves their goods and find out what they need to make the declaration – or if they will need to make the declarations themselves
A temporary tariff regime will be implemented for 12 months, which should see the majority of UK imports tariff-free but everything, from the way in which animals, animal products and high risk feed are imported, together with the way UK authorities must be notified, will all change.
There will be new rules for plants and plant products, while rules for what must be shown on food labels will also alter for some food and drink products. These changes will cover country of origin and food business operator (FBO) address labelling, together with use of the EU emblem, health and identification marks, the geographical indication (GI) logo and the use of EU organic logo.
Expert Opinion“These best practice and guidance tips from DEFRA are welcome, because deal or no deal, change is coming in less than 50 working days. The main issues remain the lack of clarity over what certain rules and mechanisms will look like or how they will work in practice and this is something business will find hard to prepare for.” Rob Coleridge - Senior Associate Solicitor
The EU organic logo can’t feature on UK goods, unless the UK and EU recognise each other’s standards before 1 January 2021; while marketing standards will change for wine and hops, beef and poultry and fruit and vegetables. UK firms exporting these products to the EU now need to meet marketing standards for third countries, set out in the EC marketing standards regulations.
Rob added: “We are actively engaging with our clients to offer tailored advice, based on individual circumstances and while food for thought, there are key areas in the DEFRA guidance business needs to be aware of now.
“It looks increasingly unlikely standards will be mutually recognised, so business must prepare for being unable to use the EU organic logo, while those exporting non-harmonised food products need to be ready for the Bloc’s rules no longer applying to the UK.
“EU and EEA member states must allow goods to be marketed in their territory, if they are legally marketed in another member state. This means countries with their own internal rules for certain foodstuffs, must still accept products from member states which don’t meet them. This ‘mutual recognition’ is a principle of EU law, but will not apply to the UK from 1 January.
“This means UK firms must check if the member state has its own rules for their product and follow them. Once goods have been lawfully marketed in one state, the ‘mutual recognition’ principle may or may not apply again but unknowns such as these must be factored into plans.
“This all represents a cocktail of change and disruption, whatever the outcome of talks and may even have implications for the way firms access favourable arrangements with non EU countries. Following the DEFRA guidance will help ensure that the food and drink sector are not left with a bad taste in the mouth at the end of transition period.”
For further information and a clear guide on the areas that you should be focussing on in relation to Brexit, visit our hub here.