Producing and processing organic food if there’s no Brexit deal
Updated 19 December 2018
Delivering the deal negotiated with the EU remains the government’s top priority. This has not changed.
However, the government must prepare for every eventuality, including a no deal scenario. For two years, the government has been implementing a significant programme of work to ensure that the UK is prepared to leave the EU on March 29 2019.
It has always been the case that as we get nearer to that date, preparations for a no deal scenario would have to be accelerated. We must ensure plans are in place should they need to be relied upon.
In the summer, the government published a series of 106 Technical Notices setting out information to allow businesses and citizens to understand what they would need to do in a no deal scenario so they can make informed plans and preparations.
This Technical Notice offers guidance for continued planning in the event of no deal.
Also included is an overarching framing notice explaining the government’s approach to preparing the UK for this outcome in order to minimise disruption and ensure a smooth and orderly exit.
We are working with the devolved administrations on Technical Notices and we will continue to do so as plans develop.
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.
Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area and participate in other EU arrangements. As such, in many areas, these countries adopt EU rules. Where this is the case, these technical notices may also apply to them, and EEA businesses and citizens should consider whether they need to take any steps to prepare for a ‘no deal’ scenario.