Your overview of political and economic news with a focus on the food and consumer goods industry, featuring the latest developments and guidance on COVID-19 and adapting to a new relationship with the EU.
Rapid COVID-19 testing for workers
The government has announced a wider drive to increase workplace testing for businesses with 50 or more employees in England, encouraging them to register for the provision of government-funded lateral flow technology (LFT/LFD) to test asymptomatic workers.
This follows the introduction of asymptomatic testing across all local authorities in England targeted at people who cannot work from home.
Defra is urging food businesses to take up the offer of government funded testing, following successful pilots over recent weeks. Those interested in taking part can contact DHSC here using “Register interest for National Worker Programme” in the subject line and including the following information in the email body:
- Institution name
- Email for main point of contact
- Industry Sector (e.g. food manufacturing)
- Company registration number
- Size of company/number of employees (e.g. 50-250, >250)
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are encouraged to contact their local authority to explore the possibility of using community testing facilities.
More information is expected shortly on the timetable for the further roll out of community based and home-based testing for employees who cannot work from home.
The First Minister of Scotland recently announced plans for the introduction of workforce testing within the food processing and distribution sectors.
Absence rates due to COVID-19 are reported to be declining, as the national lockdowns have led to a reduced number of COVID-19 cases.
EU-UK discussions – Northern Ireland Protocol
The government and the European Commission are expected to hold further talks later this week relating to the working of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Michael Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has called for grace periods to be extended for Northern Ireland, to allow businesses more time to adapt to new Irish Sea border processes. This follows the suspension of physical checks on animal and food products at Belfast and Larne ports following concerns about staff safety. Documentary checks that can be conducted remotely are not affected.
Businesses are advised to continue to prepare for the end of the grace period on 1 April (see key dates section for more details).
Defra has issued updated guidance on the movement of mixed consignments to Northern Ireland (groupage). Following successful trials with industry (involving taking goods from GB to NI), two groupage models have been agreed.
Pilots are expected to begin next week to test these groupage solutions for movement of mixed consignments to the Republic of Ireland, with potential for a wider adoption by other EU member states.
Volumes at ports
Freight volumes are reported to be increasing with many sea routes approaching levels typical for this time of year, including the short straits. However, it is not clear that this indicates a substantial increase in export volumes as some hauliers are reportedly returning to Europe with empty trailers to avoid delays.
Export Health Certificates – changes from 21 April
On 21 April the EU will implement Regulation (EU) 2016/429 on transmissible animal diseases under its Animal Health Law. This means that new Export Health Certificates (EHCs) will be required for exports to the EU from 21 April, including for some manufactured products containing products of animal origin that are currently exempt from EHC requirements. Defra is expected to make the new certificates available shortly.
Imports – testing of requirements for 1 April
Stage 2 testing of the Border Operating Model will take place during March 2021, including feasibility and practical fitness testing of the new import requirements that will come into effect on 1 April (see key dates section below). Food industry representatives and key businesses will be involved in the testing.
Key dates for UK-EU transition and support for businesses
Businesses trading with the EU should be prepared for the introduction of further border controls for the following key dates:
- 1 April – End of the grace period for supermarkets and their suppliers moving goods into Northern Ireland. All products of animal origin (POAO) exported to Northern Ireland will require Export Health Certificates.
- 1 April – Products of animal origin and all regulated plants and plant products will require pre-notification and health documentation to be imported into the UK. There may also by physical checks, conducted at the final destination.
- 30 June – The grace period for sending certain P&R goods from GB to NI ends.
- 1 July – Products of animal origin and all regulated plants and plant products will be subject to physical checks at Border Control Posts in the UK. The regime of border checks will become more rigorous.
Complete customs declarations for imports to the UK will be required. Importers may no longer defer making declarations. Tariffs will become payable at the moment of import.
The UK government has issued guidance specifically for food and drink businesses.
Register here for upcoming webinars on trading with the EU.
Register here for Defra webinars on Importing Products of Animal Origin (POAO) from the European Union into Great Britain.
IGD has also provided additional support to help businesses with EU Exit. Businesses may also wish to refer to the EU EXIT Foodhub, an FAQ website for food and drink businesses.
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