Although the UK will no longer have a seat on the European Council, MEPs or voting rights it will still be bound by EU decisions taken on pesticides regulation during the Brexit implementation period, which will operate from March 29, 2019 to December 31, 2020, an Expert Committee on Pesticides meeting heard earlier this week.
Speaking at the meeting, a Defra spokesperson said the UK would ‘almost certainly not’ be able to act as a Rapporteur Member State during the implementation period. This involves assessing plant protection product applications on behalf of other countries in its ‘zone’ – the UK is in the central zone – and sometimes on behalf of all zones (there are three).
While the HSE’s Chemicals Regulation Division, which currently carries out this work, will be able to approve plant protection products in the UK, it is not expected to take forward assessments on active substances during the implementation period.
The Defra spokesperson said: “HSE is a trusted regulator. The UK processes the greatest number of applications and decisions. The EU will miss us. How might we use this expertise to influence decisions even though we’re outside the EU?”
She suggested this regulatory expertise could bring opportunities to the UK after exit.
The European Union Withdrawal Bill will convert all EU pesticides regulations into UK national law at the point of exit – i.e. March 29, 2019. Some changes will be needed where the regime relies on EU processes and institutions – operational fixes, but these are not policy changes. “It will be the same rules, with the same data requirements but there could be some scope for applying the regimes more flexibly.”
“Any reform would be longer term and require new primary legislation.
“The priority on day 1 is that we have the readiness in place, the regulatory framework and regulatory capacity to operate on a UK only basis.”
Dr Chris Hartfield, senior regulatory affairs adviser, NFU has concerns about loss of UK influence during the implementation period. “After March next year we won’t have a vote, no MEPs, no place on the EU council so how much can we influence? A strength of the UK is we have a science-based approach and when this is removed there could be issues as the EU is really precautionary in its approach to pesticides use.”