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 timeline for introduction of import controls
The government has announced more time for businesses to prepare for the introduction of import controls for goods from the EU. The main changes include a delay of six months for the introduction of pre-notification requirements and health documentation, with physical border checks now expected to be implemented in January 2022 (see key dates below).
Trade with EU – decline in exports and imports
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown a 40.7% decline in goods exported to the European Union in January. Imports declined by 28.8%. The ONS has cited that “slower trade for goods in early January 2021 could be attributable to disruption caused by the end of the transition period. In addition, we also need to consider the stronger November and December stockpiling trade figures.”
1 October – grace period for moving goods to Northern Ireland
The UK government has stressed that it is acting lawfully in 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).
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland has confirmed that it will be aligning its compliance protocol in line with the operational plan set out by the UK government.
The plan sets out a phased approach to introducing certification requirements for authorised traders from October 2021. This will allow more time to digitise the process using a new Digital Assistance Scheme.
The European Commission is reported to be planning legal action and believes the unilateral move by the UK government amounted to "a violation of the relevant substantive provisions" of the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland.
21 April - Export of composite products containing products of animal origin (POAO)
New animal health regulations come into effect in the EU on 21 April, involving a new model of Export Health Certificates (EHCs). Defra has identified 26 new certificates, many of which relate to the transport of live animals. Six of these relate to products of animal origin, including three for composite products.
As part of transitionary arrangements, current EHCs can continue to be signed until 21 August.
Defra is expected to update their guidance and begin communication of these changes from 22 March, with the new EHCs available from 1 April. A series of webinars will begin on 5 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:
- 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 October – Products of animal origin 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 products of animal origin (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 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.
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
In its’ monthly estimate, the ONS has reported that GDP declined by 2.9% in January as a result of the third lockdown.
Update on COVID-19 home testing for workers
Trials of institutional home testing are continuing and this ‘home collect’ service is expected to be made available from the end of this month in a limited set of circumstances where on site testing is not feasible.
Eligibility criteria is expected to be offered to larger businesses that operate a number of small sites, and to businesses that have mobile workers.
The government’s preferred testing approach is supervised workplace testing and it is encouraging businesses to adopt this programme wherever possible. Those interested in taking part can register here.
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.
Easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Scotland
The Scottish government has announced a cautious acceleration of lockdown easing. This focuses on social interaction and includes up to four adults from two households being able to meet locally in any outdoor space from 12 March.
No further timetable has been provided on the easing of restrictions.
The Welsh government has also announced a further lifting of restrictions and includes:
- Two households being able to meet outdoors to socialise from 13 March
- Non-essential retail to reopen gradually from 22 March
- All shops, including all close contact services, will be able to open from 12 April
This follows the four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England and the cautious approaches in Northern Ireland to easing lockdown restrictions.