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.
Deadline for Northern Ireland digital assistance scheme workshops
Registration closes on Friday 26 February to participate in workshops to help design, develop and test the new Digital Assistance Scheme. This applies to traders of all kinds that move agri-food goods and live animals from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. 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.
Northern Ireland – extension of 1 April grace period?
A joint statement has been issued following a meeting of the UK-EU joint committee on 24 February. The two sides “acknowledged the importance of joint action to make the Northern Ireland Protocol work for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.” The statement also noted that the UK “would provide a new operational plan with respect to supermarkets and their suppliers, alongside additional investment in digital solutions for traders in accordance with the Protocol.”
Further discussions are expected on the working of the Northern Ireland Protocol and a potential extension of the grace period, currently scheduled for 1 April (see key dates section for more details) to allow more time to digitise the process using the new Digital Assistance Scheme.
This follows concerns that the system will become unworkable if the new certification requirements are introduced from 1 April.
Movement Assistance Scheme – review of reimbursement cap for Export Health Certificates
Official veterinarians (OVs) and certifying officers can invoice the government for the costs of providing Export Health Certificates for goods moving between GB and NI under the Movement Assistance Scheme. A review is to be conducted on the cap for these costs. Further announcements are expected next month.
Changes to Export Health Certificates
Under new European regulations that come into effect on 21 April 2021, a new model of Export Health Certificate will be introduced. This will impact the export of composite products containing products of animal origin (POAO) as an ingredient.
Defra is seeking further clarity from the European Commission on these changes in order to minimise any disruption.
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:
- 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.
- 21 April - a new model of Export Health Certificate will be introduced. This will impact the export of composite products containing products of animal origin (POAO) as an ingredient.
- 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 government is encouraging businesses to reach out to all their European suppliers to ensure they are prepared for import requirements from 1 April.
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
Vaccination priority groups announced
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has announced the following groups should be prioritised, once all at-risk groups in phase one have been offered at least one dose of the vaccine:
- all those aged 40-49 years
- all those aged 30-39 years
- all those aged 18-29 years
All four nations of the UK will follow the recommended approach. There will not be a priority for key workers as priority based on jobs would be “more complex.”
Easing COVID-19 restrictions – differences by country
The First Minister in Scotland has announced an update to the Strategic Framework. This sets out a “phased and careful approach to easing lockdowns”. Few dates are provided in the plan, though the plan includes “the phased but significant re-opening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality” from the last week of April. The plan will also see a return to regional tiers (or “levels”).
The First Minister in Wales has also announced a cautious approach to easing lockdown restrictions. Some non-essential shops could also reopen in March, though no dates have been given on the re-opening of hospitality. The next review of lockdown rules in Wales is due around 12 March.
Northern Ireland has extended its lockdown until 1 April, with a review of current measures on 18 March.
The Prime Minister recently announced a four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England.
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