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.
Further easing of COVID-19 restrictions
The Prime Minister has confirmed a further easing of COVID-19 restrictions will take effect in England from 12 April. This includes the re-opening of non-essential retail and hospitality venues for outdoor service
The government has also published an update on the four reviews established in the roadmap. These cover:
- COVID status certification
- Global travel
- Social distancing
Defra will be seeking feedback from industry with regards to whether existing rules on social distancing can be relaxed in business settings.
This follows the lifting of some restrictions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Improving absence and trading environment
With the number of positive COVID-19 tests declining sharply; more than three in five adults having received their first vaccine and the end of shielding, businesses are reporting very low absence levels. The trading environment is also reported to be stable with no significant issues around availability.
Worker testing – registration deadline
Businesses have until 12 April to register to receive free rapid lateral flow tests for employees for either workplace or home testing. The government is encouraging businesses to take a proactive role in encouraging twice weekly testing of employees and register the results with Test and Trace.
Workforce testing should be the primary route and should not be confused with the recent announcement of universal availability of rapid flow tests.
Good start for COVID-19 haulier testing
There have been no reports of disruption following the introduction of a bespoke testing regime for international arrivals who are be exempt from quarantine for work purposes, including for hauliers arriving from outside the Common Travel Area into England.
Hauliers staying in the UK for under 48 hrs are exempt from quarantine and will not be required to take a COVID-19 test. Guidance for exempt groups has been published.
Logistics – driver shortages
The Department for Transport is continuing to hold discussions with UK logistics companies over reports concerning driver shortages. COVID-19 has significantly impacted recruitment, training and driving tests for new drivers.
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.
Defra has confirmed that composite products containing dairy products that have been pasturised will be able to be certified. Defra has also confirmed that the EU Commission have provided assurance that current arrangements will continue should the required changes to EU legislation not be in place by 21 April.
The new EHCs are available on EHC Online (ECHO) from 1 April. Updated guidance, frequently asked questions and a composite product decision tree have been published.
A Q&A webinar with Defra experts will be held on 13 April.
These new requirements relate to changes to EU law (Animal Heath Regulations) which apply from April 2021 and 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.
Northern Ireland - Movement Assistance Scheme (MAS) extension
Defra has announced two further extensions to the Movement Assistance Scheme for traders moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
- Following a review, the scheme has been extended for three months
- From 1 April, local authorities must not charge for inspecting and certifying particular categories of high risk food and feed not of animal origin products (including lab sampling costs).
The government will continue to monitor the performance of the scheme and will review it again in three months time, to determine how best to provide ongoing support for traders.
A confirmed date is expected shortly for the commencement of pilots to test a pallet-level sealant approach for the movement of mixed consignments of goods exported to the Republic of Ireland (groupage). It is hoped that following these pilots, further pilots can take place for movement of goods to Calais, Zeebrugge and Rotterdam.
This follows the adoption of two groupage models for the movement of goods from GB to NI. See recently published DAERA guidance for the collection and movement of SPS goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland through groupage.
Border control post consistency
The government is continuing to hold discussions with EU officials to ensure greater consistency in the interpretation of requirements at Border Control Posts in EU member states.
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.
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