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.
New COVID-19 home testing for employees
The government has announced that a new ‘Workplace Collect’ service will be launched on 6 April. Companies with over 10 workers will be able to order testing kits to distribute for home testing. Employers are advised to encourage twice weekly testing and register the results with Test and Trace.
The government has also reintroduced confirmatory PCR tests for employees receiving a positive lateral flow test
The deadline has been extended until 12 April for businesses to register to receive free rapid lateral flow tests for either workplace or home testing.
COVID-19 testing for hauliers – new bespoke testing regime
The UK government has set out new details of a bespoke testing regime for international arrivals who will be exempt from quarantine for work purposes, including for hauliers arriving from outside the Common Travel Area into England.
Hauliers staying in the UK for under 48 hrs are exempt from quarantine and will not be required to take a COVID-19 test. Further guidance for exempt groups has been published.
Relaxation of drivers hours
The government has confirmed that the current relaxation of drivers hours, for the delivery of food and essential goods, will continue until 21 June This is in line with step 4 of the government roadmap for easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
New changes to easing of COVID-19 restrictions
The Welsh government has announced plans to further ease restrictions. These include:
- All remaining non-essential retail and close contact services will be allowed to reopen from 12 April
- Travel restrictions on traveling into and out of Wales will be lifted from 12 April
- Outdoor hospitality to re-open by 26 April
- To consider enabling indoor hospitality after 17 May
This follows the four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England and the lifting of some restrictions in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Composite products containing products of animal origin (POAO)
New rules for the export of composite products to the EU will come into effect on 21 April, introducing new EHCs for composite products as well as new documentation for composite products exempt from certification.
Defra has confirmed that composite products containing dairy products that have been pasturised will be able to be certified. This will require the EU Commission to make a legislative change. However, if this is not completed in time for the 21 April the EU Commission is expected to confirm that they will maintain the status quo until new legislation comes into effect.
The new EHCs are available on EHC Online (ECHO) from 1 April. Updated guidance, frequently asked questions and a composite product decision tree have been published.
Q&A webinars with Defra experts will be held on 7 April, 8 April and 13 April.
These new requirements relate to changes to EU law (Animal Heath Regulations) which apply from April 2021 and impact on traders who export certain animals, germinal products and products of animal origin.
EHCs will need to be updated to reflect the new rules, but as part of transitionary arrangements, current EHCs can continue to be signed until 21 August.
Animal Health Regulations – moving goods into Northern Ireland
The Animal Health Regulations will apply in Northern Ireland. Traders moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will need to ensure that they meet the new requirements.
However, the government has confirmed that authorised traders (supermarkets and their suppliers) will not need to complete EHCs resulting from new rules for the export of composite products (see above) when moving goods into Northern Ireland. This will be covered by existing STAMNI requirements.
Northern Ireland – Digital Assistance Scheme (DAS) update
Workshops have now been completed to help design, develop and test the new Digital Assistance Scheme. The scheme is intended to help overcome challenges of moving agri-foods by developing simplified, seamless, digital systems for the completion of the certification and verification processes required to move goods.
Workshops are being held this week with technical providers to determine the key requirements for the digital assistance scheme.
Northern Ireland – Movement Assistance Scheme (MAS) update
The government is expected to announce that there will be an extension of the Movement Assistance Scheme to cover high risk food not of animal origin (HRFNAO) certification costs.
Northern Ireland – update on EU-UK negotiations
The UK government has now shared an operational plan with the EU concerning the movement of goods into Northern Ireland. This follows a legal challenge from the European Commission after temporarily extending the grace period for supermarkets and their suppliers moving goods into Northern Ireland from 1 April to 1 October (see key dates section for more details).
A constructive discussion has taken place between the UK and EU and further discussions are expected.
Pilots are expected to begin shortly to test a pallet-level sealant approach for the movement of mixed consignments of goods exported to the Republic of Ireland (groupage). It is hoped that following these pilots, further pilots can take place for movement of goods to Calais, Zeebrugge and Rotterdam.
This follows the adoption of two groupage models for the movement of goods from GB to NI.
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 on the following dates:
- 21 April – Regulation (EU) 2016/429 on transmissible animal diseases (the EU’s Animal Health Law) comes into effect, introducing new EHCs for composite goods containing products of animal origin (POAO) as an ingredient, as well as new documentation for composite products exempt from certification.
- 30 June – The grace period for sending certain Prohibited & Restricted goods (P&Rs) from GB to NI ends.
- 21 August – New model of EHCs is required for POAO exported to the EU, following the end of the transitionary arrangements allowing the use of current EHCs
- 1 October – POAO and all regulated plants and plant products will require pre-notification and health documentation to be imported into the UK.
- 1 October – End of the grace period for supermarkets and their suppliers moving goods into Northern Ireland. The start of a phased introduction of the Export Health Certificates for POAO exported to Northern Ireland from GB.
- 1 January 2022 - Safety and Security Declarations for imports required. Physical checks required at Border Control Posts (BCPs) for POAO and certain animal by-products, and High Risk Food Not Of Animal Origin. Physical SPS checks of high risk plants also to take place at BCPs. Pre-notification requirements and documentary checks required for low risk plants and plant products.
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.
- 1 March 2022 – Physical checks at BCPs for live animals and low risk plants and plant products.
The UK government has issued guidance specifically for food and drink businesses.
Register here for upcoming webinars on trading with the EU.
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