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.
Easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland Executive has published its plan to ease restrictions. It is more cautious and measured than the four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England.
The plan does not include a timetable. It sets out the order by which restrictions may be eased across different social and business settings. The executive must review its coronavirus restrictions regularly, with the next review on 16 March.
This follows cautious approaches in Scotland and Wales to easing lockdown restrictions.
Extension of furlough scheme
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is expected to extend the furlough scheme in the budget today. In morning media interviews The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the Chancellor will be "looking to extend" government support, including furlough, Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loans, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and VAT holidays.
James Walton, our Chief Economist will be providing a full analysis of the budget on 4 March here.
Workplace testing encouraged
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has issued a letter encouraging businesses to adopt the Government’s workplace testing programme. The programme of free tests is open to all employers of over 50 staff and will run until 30 June. Businesses must register by 31 March.
Those interested in taking part can register here.
COVID-19 community testing for workers
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees in England are encouraged to contact their local authority to explore the possibility of using community testing facilities for workers that cannot work from home.
The vast majority of local authorities are now offering community testing, with all expected to make facilities available shortly.
Home testing for workers trials
Trials of institutional home testing are currently taking place. It is expected to be made available for employees of businesses where it is not practically possible to establish testing facilities and for those who do not have a regular place of work.
Food waste week
The UK’s first Food Waste Action Week is taking place this week bringing together citizens and organisations from retail, manufacturing, local government, hospitality and elsewhere to demonstrate the impact of wasted food on people, on business, and on the planet.
Sign up here to get involved with the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap. Under this initiative The UK's largest retailers, food producers and manufacturers, hospitality and food service companies have committed to milestones laid out in a new industry Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, developed in conjunction with IGD and WRAP to tackle food waste in the UK.
Northern Ireland – extension of 1 April grace period?
A further update is expected this week 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.
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 – Regulation (EU) 2016/429 on transmissible animal diseases (the EU’s Animal Health Law) comes into effect, with a new model of Export Health Certificates that will principally 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.
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.