IGD - Economics bulletin 19 March

Date : 19 March 2021

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.

EU legal action on extension of grace period for moving goods to Northern Ireland

The UK government has received 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). 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 UK government is required to provide a detailed operational plan by the end of March. It has a month to respond to the formal part of the letter.

Questions relating to new Export Health Certificates (EHCs) for 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. 

A number of technical queries regarding these have been raised with Defra and will be discussed in a meeting with the European Commission next week. Ahead of this businesses are asked to submit any further questions to Defra by Friday 19 March.

Defra is expected to update its guidance and begin communication of these changes next week, with the new EHCs available from 1 April.  A series of webinars will begin on 5 April.

These new requirements relate to changes to EU law which apply from April 2021 that will 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. Therefore, Defra plan to introduce the remaining new EHCs for animal products and live animals, as they are needed, by August 2021.

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.

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

Successful COVID-19 home testing trials for workers

Trials of institutional home testing are reported to be progressing well with initial positive results. This ‘home collect’ service was initially expected to be made available from the end of this month in a limited set of circumstances where on site testing is not feasible. However, it is understood that the Department of Health and Social care is considering if this can be expanded more widely.

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 by 31 March.

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.

New changes to easing of COVID-19 restrictions

The Scottish government has announced a timetable for further lockdown easing and includes the following changes from 26 April:

  • All retail premises would be able to open
  • The hospitality sector would be able to reopen outdoors for the service of alcohol, and potentially open indoors for non-alcohol service
  • Up to four people from two households could be able to socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant

No further timetable has been provided beyond 17 May on the further easing of restrictions.

The Northern Ireland Executive has also announced a relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions including the following changes from 12 April:

  • Allowing contactless click and collect service for all non-essential retail
  • Removal of the ‘stay at home’ provision in the legislation, stronger promotion of the stay local and work from home messages

This follows the four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England and the lifting of some restrictions in Wales.

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