DEFRA SPS standards (UK from 1st Jan 2021)

Lord Gardiner of Kimble made the following statements concerning the SPS standards regime that will operate from 1st Jan 2021 – (these statements made in the final reading of the Agriculture Bill at the House of Lords)

[note: goods placed on the NI market will need to comply with EU law where it’s listed in the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol]

(1) The Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland will apply to imports under new free trade agreements. For example, regulated food products will need to pass the FSA’s risk analysis process before being placed on the local market. The FSA has doubled the number of risk assessors since 2017. It can draw on the expertise of 100 scientific experts and support staff and has recruited 35 additional members to its advisory committees. It has also taken wider consumer interest into account, such as the impact on the environment, animal welfare and food security, drawing on appropriate expertise and stakeholders to do so. The expertise of other government departments and agencies will be brought to bear in the risk assessment process, as required, including the Animal and Plant Health Agency and Defra officials.

(2) Equivalence will be considered by experts in the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the Food Standards Agency. The expert advice and evidence on regulated products will then be presented to Ministers and devolved Administrations for a decision on whether these products should be placed on the local market. Secondary legislation would need to be laid before Parliament to authorise new regulated products to be placed on the market.

(3) The functions of audit and inspection, currently carried out by the European Commission, will be repatriated to ensure that trading partners continue to meet local import conditions for food and feed safety, animal and plant health and animal welfare. This will include officials auditing the food production systems and rules of other countries and carrying out inspection visits to facilities in the countries themselves. Verification that requirements are being carried out as stipulated will be conducted through checks at the border. Audits will ensure that trading partners have the necessary infrastructure and regulation in place to export safe food and animal products, which either meet or exceed local import conditions, and will then ensure that these standards are maintained.

(4) The UK Government will take a science-based approach to SPS measures and take their own sovereign decisions on standards and regulations, in line with the principles of the WTO SPS agreement and other relevant internationally recognised guidance.

[Information on the WTO SPS agreement is here – note, it does not of itself set out SPS standards]

(5) Food labelling rules apply to all food intended for supply to final consumers or to caterers. Imported food needs to be fully compliant before it is placed on the local market. The name and address of the local food business, or the importer, will be required on the label from 1st Jan 2021. There are no exceptions to food labelling rules for imported food.

(6) Re Northern Ireland. The withdrawal agreement joint committee met again on 16 July and the Northern Ireland Executive representative again attended, in line with the New Decade, New Approach deal. They exchanged updates on implementation of the protocol and discussed preparatory work for future decisions.

(7) Re quotas that form part of the commitments within the UK goods schedule, which has been lodged at the WTO. The UK has already agreed a common approach with the EU to apportion EU 28 tariff-rate quotas between the UK and EU 27 in order to ensure existing trade flows are maintained. Legislation will be presented by the Treasury later this year under the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 to establish new tariff quotas in UK law.

(8) Re Use of gene editing. Until 2018, there was uncertainty within the EU as to whether the living products of gene editing technology should be subject to the same regulatory framework as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), because the legal definition of a GMO was open to interpretation.

In 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that gene edited products must be treated in the same way as GMOs, even if the changes to their genetic material could have been produced by traditional methods, such as crossing varieties of the same species and selecting only the improved individuals.

The UK Government is committed to taking a more scientific approach to regulation.

Gene-edited changes to genetic material that would not arise naturally or from traditional breeding methods will still need to be regulated as genetically modified organisms. The UK Government will consult on this issue. Defra is working on the details so that a consultation can be launched in the autumn.

Further details are set out in the Hansard record – here.

UK Internal Market Bill (Scotland 1st Jan 2021)

The UK Internal Market Bill is not yet published. Accounts of it suggest it’s purpose is to put into law the common approaches that subsist across the UK and the Devolved Governments to food, environment and animal welfare, in the context of international trade agreements.

Presently, a concept of ‘common frameworks’ is agreed between the UK and the Devolved Governments to enable the functioning of the UK internal market (in areas that are currently governed by the European Union) from the 1st January 2021, while acknowledging policy divergence.

The Finance and Constitutional Committee (FCC) of the Scottish Parliament has been consulting on views about how the UK Internal Market might operate from 1st January 2021. This consultation closed 28th February 2020.

More details are here.

Further Blog posts will be issued in the event that the UK Internal Market Bill is progressed.

COVID-19 Factory & Transport Guidance (UK)

Manufacturing, factories and transport operations are not listed as restricted operations and are expected to stay open, with the workplace adjusted to ensure social distancing, and symptomatic workers sent home to recover. Some operations will also be able to be carried out via home working.

Transport workers are classed as essential workers with respect to their children attending school.

Guidance (rules) issued so far –

(1) food businesses – here

(2) Northern Ireland food and drink industry guidance – here

(3) transport – here

(4) freight transport – here

(5) marine settings of shipping and ports – here

Guidance (rules) for all employers, employees and businesses is here.

Guidance (rules) on cleaning is here.

The Health and Safety Executive also has guidance (rules) – here. (I blog posted about this yesterday)

Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland guidance (rules) – here

Sanitary and Phytosanitary Notification (UK WTO)

The UK is a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The WTO members operate amongst themselves an Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures.

The UK submitted (13 March) information (for circulation to WTO Members) to answer the matter of the ongoing implementation of the United Kingdom’s obligations under this WTO SPS Agreement during the transition period following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, and to set out the UK’s own SPS Regulatory System.

The UK ceased to be a member State of the European Union on 31 January 2020. The UK and the EU agreed a Withdrawal Agreement which provides for a time-limited transition period until 1 January 2021 during which European Union law, as implemented through the Withdrawal Agreement, will continue to apply to and in the United Kingdom.

This means that the European Union SPS regime continues to apply in the United Kingdom during the transition period and, following that, the United Kingdom will apply its own SPS regime.

The United Kingdom Parliament legislated to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 by means of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The 2018 Act preserves, and incorporates into domestic law, those elements of European Union law which will apply in the United Kingdom at the end of the transition period.

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 in turn implements the Withdrawal Agreement (which provides for the transition period) including by amending the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to reflect the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The UK SPS Regulatory System is set out in the Notice – here

The UK Government is responsible for matters pertaining to the SPS Agreement and international trade. However, powers to implement, regulate and assure food safety, animal and plant health including matters relating to import and export, are devolved by the UK Parliament to the respective administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (collectively referred to as the Devolved Administrations).

Coronavirus Bill (UK)

UPDATE (Thursday 19th March) : all stages of the Coronavirus Bill will be taken in the Commons on Monday (not today) – the timetable in the Lords is not published

As we are all aware, coronavirus COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020.

The UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has identified that to effectively manage this coronavirus outbreak in the UK, new fast-tracked legislation is required – termed the Coronavirus Bill.

The legislation will be time-limited – for 2 years – and not all of these measures will come into force immediately. The bill allows the 4 UK governments to switch on these new powers when they are needed, and, crucially, to switch them off again once they are no longer necessary, based on the advice of Chief Medical Officers of the 4 nations.

This Blog does not focus on the specifics of the healthcare sector or social care, but there are some areas in this Bill, that this Blog does track – the Bill :

(1) enables the Home Secretary to request that port and airport operators temporarily close and suspend operations if Border Force staff shortages result in a real and significant threat to the UK’s border security. This is to ensure the UK can maintain adequate border security throughout the pandemic and protect the public from the threat of criminality or importation of prohibited items that could result from an inadequately controlled border. This would only be used in extremis, where necessary and proportionate, and any direction will be kept to the minimum period necessary to maintain the security of the UK border

(2) enables the government to restrict or prohibit events and gatherings during the pandemic in any place, vehicle, train, vessel or aircraft, any movable structure and any offshore installation and, where necessary, to close premises

(3) enables the police and immigration officers to detain a person, for a limited period, who is, or may be, infectious and to take them to a suitable place to enable screening and assessment

(4) requires industry to provide information about food supplies, in the event that an industry partner does not co-operate with current voluntary information-sharing arrangements during a period of potential disruption.

Link to details about the Coronavirus Bill.

This Bill is expected to become law on Thursday.

EU Law in UK 2021 (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st January (end of this month)

Implementation period completion day is 31st December (this is the end of the transition period)

The Chancellor speaking to the Financial Times, confirms there will be no dynamic alignment with EU Law after 2020.

I am not yet clear which laws will diverge, but please note the Brexit laws allow divergence, for example the Brexit Agriculture Bill provides for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to create their own marketing standards (Scotland will need to enact its own Brexit Agriculture Bill).

The EU Exit regulations (statutory instruments) we (Cardinal Environment) are consolidating into domestic law only deal with the pre-Brexit period to end Dec 2020.

It is the FT front page today (Saturday 18th January) and the lead on BBC online.

EU Law per se will not apply anyway. Note, there may be some long tail implementation left over from pre-Brexit that will be implemented.

We (Cardinal Environment) are already consolidating the EU Exit regulations into domestic law, and creating the Retained EU Law (EU Regulations, not Directives, that are adopted). Progress in this project can be seen by clicking the Brexit Consolidated Law List on the top right hand side of EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists homepages (both ENV and OHS).

We are working to the deadline of 31st December 2020 for completion of this project.

In addition, EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists will see the home page choice of ENV or OHS have additional Post-Brexit choices, and the existing links relabelled Pre-Brexit.

The Post-Brexit links will direct to shadow Registers & Checklists that will run from the end of Q1 to hit the end Dec 2020 deadline, for switch over to Post-Brexit.

Post-Brexit shadow Registers & Checklists running in 2020 will have Brexit Consolidated Law loaded (accessibility will stay from the main Brexit Consolidated Law list), and will display a changed Register layout.

Post-Brexit EHS Legislation Registers layout – EU Law will be moved from the top to below Guidance. We will still supply up to date EU Law to UK customers, but this is where it will be found. Retained EU Law will be displayed at the top of the Register.

Export Health Certificates (NI Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October (this date is set out in a statutory instrument)

An Export Health Certificate (EHC) is an official document that confirms a food or animal export meets the health and quality requirements of the importing country.

The EHC has to be signed by a vet or other qualified person in the exporting country after they have inspected the goods.

Food products being imported into the EU from a non-member state require EHCs.

They’re signed by vets to assure the importing country that produce is safe and without them trade can’t happen.

Around 18,000 of them a year are currently produced in Northern Ireland mostly to cover the trade in live animals to Britain.

This Blog does not cover animal or food trade, but many have asked me questions on this matter, and so here is my Blog post.

Various persons raise the issue of scarcity of vets and EHC costs, in Northern Ireland. It is possible the UK could cut a deal that would see it follow the EU’s rules for a period after Brexit, allowing trade to continue while a permanent arrangement was worked out. But this would not get around the need for a huge number of trade certificates, in any event.

DAERA (the relevant NI agency) says it is recruiting new staff and retraining existing ones to cope with the new trading arrangements.

“While we anticipate that current trade will adjust, it is difficult to gauge demand for certification as businesses may not make decisions until post Brexit. We are currently assessing the resources available and how we will prioritise based on the potential scale of the demands.”

It is encouraging businesses to sign up to advice workshops it’s beginning to run from next week.

Food Safety (Ireland Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October

(a separate post will notify if/when this date changes, and it is unlikely a future exit day will be later than 31st January 2020)

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has a Brexit section online (last reviewed 6th August 2019) that presents relevant information for persons who trade with the UK (this includes Northern Ireland) as part of a food business.

There is a huge amount of information on this online site.

A Q&A document consolidates much of it – here (dated 2 April 2019)

A key component is the Border Inspection Posts (BIPs). As the reader is aware, there is an International Land Border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK). This is known as the Irish Border.

The Irish Government is working with the EU to establish additional BIPs to serve trade across the Irish Border. The location of these additional BIPs is not yet announced, other than statements made by the Irish Government that they will be located away from the actual Irish Border physical position.

The BIPs at Dublin and Shannon (page 9 of the Q&A) are already set up.

National Food Strategy – call for evidence (UK England)

Exit day is 31st October.

Today HMG announced a call for evidence to help build a new National Food Strategy for England. Closing date is 25th October 2019.

On 27 June, Defra’s Secretary of State commissioned Henry Dimbleby to conduct an independent review to help HMG create a new National Food Strategy for England (the last one dates 75 years ago).

The purpose of the review is to address the environmental and health problems caused by the food system, to ensure the security of food supply, and to maximise the benefits of emerging agricultural technology.

The terms of reference for the Review is here.

A separate National Food Strategy onsite site has been created and this is the page on that site about the engagement – here.

The online address of the National Food Strategy site is here.

The Review will be published Summer 2020.

The Call for Evidence Closing Date is 25th October 2019 and see the Programme of Engagement on the National Food Strategy site here.

HMG stated it will publish a summary of responses 12 weeks after the consultation closes.

The Call for Evidence is accessed here (and from the National Food Strategy site).

This is a wide ranging exercise, covering obesity, food security, land management, fishing, animal welfare.

The National Food Strategy will examine activity across several departments of state, and build on the Brexit Agriculture and Fisheries Bills, the Industrial Strategy, the Childhood Obesity Plan and the proposed Environment Bill.

Statement about the UK Political Situation (this Blog does not post about Politics, this Statement is now added to Posts where the political situation could alter the content, timing or otherwise affect, the Post itself).

(1) HMG has a majority of one.

(2) Steps are being discussed by Opposition Parties and some backbenchers to prevent a No Deal, in September.

Instructions to Local Governments (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October 2019.

HMG issued today a compilation of Instructions applicable to Local Authorities.

Here.

Local authorities have relevant (to this Blog) functions, and the Instructions sign post to other Instructions issued –

* UK Product Safety and Metrology Guidance in a ‘no deal’ scenario – here (dated 25th March – a Blog post exists already about this)

* Food labelling changes if there’s a no-deal Brexit – here (dated 25th February)

* Health marks on meat, fish and dairy products here (accessed from online compilation dated 7th August – focus on the No Deal instructions)

* Importing high-risk food and animal feedhere (dated 10th April)

* Exporting GM food and animal feed products if there’s no Brexit Deal – here (dated 11th April)

* Importing, exporting and transporting products or goods after Brexithere (dated 22nd February)

* Find a professional to certify export health certificateshere (dated 11th June)

* Importing and exporting waste if there’s no Brexit dealhere (dated 3rd June)

[The UK government has secured an agreement that all UK consents for shipments of notifiable waste that go beyond 31 October 2019 will be rolled over.]

List of Brexit Law applicable to local authorities – here.

Some of these are listed in Cardinal Brexit Law List and are in the midst of being processed into the base law.