Labelling tobacco products and e-cigarettes


The purpose of this notice is to provide information to organisations, businesses and members of the public concerned with tobacco and related products, regarding changes to the regulation of such products in the unlikely event that the UK leaves the European Union (EU) in March 2019 with no agreement in place. Tax issues fall outside the scope of this notice.

Current context

Current regulations for tobacco and related products are designed to promote and protect the public’s health. The government’s priority is to maintain the same high standards after the UK leaves the EU.

Some of the UK law which regulates tobacco products and e-cigarettes implements the Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EU and the Tobacco Advertising Directive 2003/33/EC, as well as a number of delegated and implementing acts made under the Tobacco Products Directive. All relevant EU legislation is listed at the end of this notice.

EU-derived policy and legislation regarding tobacco and related products cover areas including:

  • control of sale of products
  • advertising
  • product standards (such as ingredients of products and their emissions)
  • and packaging.

The Tobacco Products Directive also sets reporting requirements for tobacco products and e-cigarettes. Manufacturers must submit specified information on ingredients and emissions for products before they are placed on the market.

What would happen in a March 2019 ‘no deal’ scenario?

If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, the Tobacco Products Directive and the Tobacco Advertising Directive would no longer directly apply to the UK.

The UK domestic law that implements these directives, such as the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, would remain in force, with minor amendments to ensure it still works effectively after EU exit. These amendments would be brought in through regulations made under the EU (Withdrawal) Act powers and would come into force on exit day.

The amendments to UK tobacco legislation would include giving the UK government the power to update the legislation in response to emerging threats, changing safety and quality standards, and technological advances. These updating powers are likely to have minimal impact on industry. Their purpose is to make sure that the UK is still able to make technical changes after we leave the EU, where needed.

Implications for businesses and stakeholders

If there’s no deal, we would:

  • create new domestic systems to allow producers to notify tobacco products and e-cigarettes in accordance with existing rules. Manufacturers will need to submit information on the new systems for any new products that they wish to sell in the UK
  • introduce new picture warnings for tobacco products as the copyright for the existing picture library is owned by the European Commission. Manufacturers will need to ensure that tobacco products which include picture warnings produced from Exit Day onwards will be labelled with the new picture warnings.

We will be consulting on the technical details of both these issues in September to ensure that changes are simple and effective, to minimise the burden of any changes.

Inevitably, under a ‘no deal’ scenario the close working relationships that exist with our European partners would not be the same. The UK will, of course, continue to play an active role in the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Further information

Further information on new systems for notification and picture warnings will be provided as part of the consultation and also when the new legislation is introduced.

This notice is meant for guidance only. You should consider whether you need separate professional advice before making specific preparations.

It is part of the government’s ongoing programme of planning for all possible outcomes. We expect to negotiate a successful deal with the EU.

The UK government is clear that in this scenario we must respect our unique relationship with Ireland, with whom we share a land border and who are co-signatories of the Belfast Agreement. The UK government has consistently placed upholding the Agreement and its successors at the heart of our approach. It enshrines the consent principle on which Northern Ireland’s constitutional status rests. We recognise the basis it has provided for the deep economic and social cooperation on the island of Ireland. This includes North-South cooperation between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which we’re committed to protecting in line with the letter and spirit of Strand two of the Agreement.

The Irish government have indicated they would need to discuss arrangements in the event of no deal with the European Commission and EU Member States. The UK would stand ready in this scenario to engage constructively to meet our commitments and act in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, recognising the very significant challenges that the lack of a UK-EU legal agreement would pose in this unique and highly sensitive context.

It remains, though, the responsibility of the UK government, as the sovereign government in Northern Ireland, to continue preparations for the full range of potential outcomes, including no deal. As we do, and as decisions are made, we’ll take full account of the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland.

Developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs)


This notice explains how controls on the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment would be affected if the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 without a deal.

Before 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020)

The release of GMOs into the UK environment is currently regulated in line with EU Directive 2001/18. Prior approval has to be sought to undertake a GMO trial release or market a GMO.

Decisions on proposed trials are taken by the UK government or devolved administrations. Decisions on marketing GMOs are made at EU level. In either case, approval is only granted if a risk assessment shows human health and the environment will not be compromised.

Only one type of GM crop seed currently has EU approval for commercial cultivation, known as MON 810 maize. It is not being marketed or grown in the UK, and is not expected to be in the future. Five different varieties of GM carnation are currently authorised under Directive 2001/18 for marketing as cut flowers, and may be sold in the UK.

The export of GMOs intended for environmental release from the UK to third (non-EU) countries is currently regulated in line with EU Regulation 1946/2003. This implements in the EU the requirements of the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The key requirement is for companies planning the first export of a GMO to a third country to notify the country in advance and await its approval.

After 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020) if there’s no deal

There would be no significant implications for UK stakeholders. Through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 existing UK domestic laws implementing Directive 2001/18 and Regulation 1946/2003, and Regulation 1946/2003 itself, would continue to apply as UK law after we have left the EU.

The government would amend the legislation to ensure it is operable in the new UK-only context, for example by replacing references to ‘Member States’. All current EU requirements would be maintained across the UK in equivalent terms. The release of GMOs would continue to require prior authorisation, and this would only be granted if there are no safety concerns. In this context:

  • Regulatory decisions on proposed GMO trials will continue to be made within the UK as they are now on a devolved basis.
  • Regulatory decisions on marketing GMOs will be made within the UK rather than at EU level, but the same risk assessment process will be applied. Defra and the devolved administrations are discussing whether decisions will be taken jointly on a UK-wide basis, or separately in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • In terms of trade, in a no-deal scenario the UK will be treated as a third country by the EU. Therefore UK businesses would only be able to export GMO products to the EU if the GMO in question has EU marketing approval. Similarly, EU exports to the UK of GM products would be dependent on there being approval for marketing here.
  • Any EU decisions authorising the marketing of GMOs which are in force on the day we leave the EU will remain applicable here until the expiry of the current EU consent period (details of EU decisions under Directive 2001/18).
  • For UK exports of GMOs to non-EU countries, the rules in Regulation 1946/2003 as converted into UK law will continue to apply.

This notice is meant for guidance only. You should consider whether you need separate professional advice before making specific preparations.

It is part of the government’s ongoing programme of planning for all possible outcomes. We expect to negotiate a successful deal with the EU.

Producing and processing organic food


This notice informs businesses (growers, processors and importers) involved in the UK organic sector of the expected position on regulations governing organic food production, labelling, imports and exports, in the event the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no deal.

To ensure a smooth transition all the existing EU requirements would continue to be applied in the UK in equivalent terms.

Before 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020)

All food and feed sold as organic must be produced in accordance with standards set out in EU law on organic production. Food sold as organic must originate from businesses registered and approved by organic control bodies on the basis of a rigorous annual inspection. These standards apply to the production of food, animal feed, livestock (including bees and farmed fish) and any food products marketed as ‘organic’.

Six UK-based and two Ireland-based organic control bodies are currently approved by Defra to license individual organic operators. The control bodies oversee organic production and offer advice to ensure the integrity of organic products placed on the market.

Labels on food sold as ‘organic’ must indicate the organic control body with which the processor or packer is registered. The labels must, as a minimum, include a code number that denotes the approved control body. Products sold as organic must also carry the EU organic logo on the packaging.

Importers of organic food must register all consignments of organic produce via TRACES NT to ensure the traceability of organic food and feed.

After 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020) if there’s no deal

If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 without a deal some processes would remain the same:

  • The UK would continue to maintain our high standards of food production and labelling.
  • UK organic control bodies would be able to continue certifying UK organic operators for trade within the UK.
  • The UK intends to continue to recognise those countries currently equivalent to the EU. Therefore, the import and export of organic goods to or from countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan and South Korea should only be minimally disrupted, if at all.
  • We anticipate continuing to accept EU organic products in a ‘no deal’ scenario, but this will be at the UK’s discretion.

However, there are some things that would change in the event of a no deal because the EU will treat the UK as a third country:

  • Logos on packaging would need to change. There would be a grace period to use up existing stock. UK organic operators would not be permitted to use the EU organic logo. UK organic operators may continue to use their control body’s logo. Defra has commissioned research on organic logos used worldwide which will provide evidence for developing any future UK logo.
  • UK businesses would only be able to export to the EU if they were certified by an organic control body recognised and approved by the EU to operate in the UK. To do this, UK organic control bodies will need to apply to the European Commission for recognition.
  • UK control bodies are not permitted to make these applications until the UK becomes a ‘third country’. Approval can take up to nine months so we are exploring alternative approaches that should speed up this process. As we are retaining EU regulation in UK law, we expect to negotiate an equivalency arrangement with the EU which will allow the free movement of organic goods between the EU and the UK. We will ask the European Commission to discuss these applications in advance of 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020).

Through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, existing EU regulations (Regulation 834/2007, Regulation 889/2008 and Regulation 1235/2008) will be rolled into UK law and continue to apply after we have left the EU. However, elements of this legislation – for example, references to the UK as a ‘Member State’ – will not be operable when applied in a UK-only context. Defra and the devolved administrations are working together to amend the legislation so it can function effectively.

The legislation will only be amended to the extent necessary to enable it to work in the UK when we have left the EU. There is no plan to introduce substantive policy changes. The certification and traceability of organic food and feed products will continue to be required. However, a new UK-owned imports traceability system would replace the current EU TRACES NT system to ensure the traceability of organic food and feed. More information on the replacement imports traceability system will be made available in the coming weeks.

This notice is meant for guidance only. You should consider whether you need separate professional advice before making specific preparations.

It is part of the government’s ongoing programme of planning for all possible outcomes. We expect to negotiate a successful deal with the EU.

This Article draws on information published by the UK Department foe Exiting the EU “UK Government’s Preparations for a no deal scenario” August 2018. UK public sector information is reproduced pursuant to the Open Government Licence  The Legal Materials contain UK public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0. The Licence is available  at (the UK Licence).

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