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.
Roadmap to easing restrictions
The Prime Minister has announced a four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England. Lockdown will be released in stages across the country as a whole and will depend on four tests being met:
- Continued rollout of the vaccination programme
- Vaccines remaining effective
- No threat of a surge in infections which would impact the NHS
- No sign of increased threat from new viral strains
This should provide some clarity for the food industry to help plan ahead for the coming months.
Re-opening of foodservice
As part of the roadmap for re-opening the economy in England, the government has announced the following plans for re-opening foodservice:
- No earlier than 12 April - Foodservice re-opens, serving outdoor seated patrons with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, and no curfew. The requirement to order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’) will remain. Outdoor gatherings must be limited to 6 people or 2 households
- No earlier than 17 May - Indoor hospitality re-opens with gatherings limited to 6 people or 2 households
- No earlier than 21 June – No legal limits on social contact
Extended funding for workplace testing
The government has also announced as part of the roadmap that the offer of free lateral flow test kits to workplaces in England for staff who cannot work at home will be extended to until the end of June. Organisations, including those yet to open, will need to register interest before 31 March.
Changes to haulier testing
The following changes have been announced for hauliers travelling from Europe to the UK via France:
- Drivers on a return trip from the EU who spend less than 48 hours in the UK will not require proof of a negative COVID test to cross the border
- Drivers from the Republic of Ireland using the land bridge can also now rely on a test taken in Ireland, as long as it is administered within 72 hours of departure from a UK port
For UK hauliers or those spending more than 48 hours in the UK, the testing requirements are unchanged.
Northern Ireland digital assistance scheme workshops
Defra is encouraging traders of all kinds who move agri-food goods and live animals from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to participate in workshops to help design, develop to 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.
The UK-EU joint committee is due meet on 24 February to have further discussions 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.
Rules of origin guidance
The government has issued updated guidance on the application of Rules of Origin (RoO).
These slides provide an overview and introduction to RoO. More detailed Defra guidance has some further examples, explanations and an annotated Product Specific Rules table.
Defra has updated its sector specific summary guidance documents.
A presentation from HMRC provides details of the interaction between RoO (requirements for claiming preferential tariffs) and wider customs procedures, such as RGR (Returned Goods Relief), rules for transit, and inward/outward processing relief.
Information on RoO and the tariff implications for moving goods from GB to NI on the ‘at risk’ register is available here.
A recorded webinar is also available.
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.
- 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.
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
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