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‘No-deal’ Brexit technical notices: Everything farmers need to know

The UK Government has today published a series of ‘technical notices’ to help businesses prepare for a no-deal Brexit. Abi Kay sets out what farmers need to know.

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‘No-deal’ technical notices: Everything farmers need to know

As the deadline for Brexit talks to be completed draws closer, Ministers at the Department for Exiting the EU have released 25 documents which attempt to explain what would happen to particular industries, including farming, if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.


A further 60 or so notices will be published over the coming months, which are likely to contain further detail about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the farming and food and drink sectors.

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Farm payments


The cash total for farm support will be protected until 2022, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Farmers should continue to receive payments, though the form they take may change.


This was Conservative manifesto pledge at the 2017 election.


All of the rules and processes will remain the same until Defra and the devolved administrations introduce new agriculture policies.


On-site inspections will continue as normal.


Organic production for the domestic market


For those organic farmers producing food for the domestic market, little would change. Processes for production and labelling would stay the same, with UK organic control bodies continuing to certify organic operators.


Logos on packaging, however, would need to be altered as UK operators would no longer be allowed to use the EU organic logo.


There would be a grace period to use up existing stock, but Defra has commissioned research to develop a new UK logo for future use.


Organic exports to the EU


Big problems here – UK businesses would only be able to export to the EU if they were certified by an organic control body approved by the EU to operate in the UK.


To get this certification, organic control bodies would need to apply to the European Commission for recognition – something they are not allowed to do until the UK ceases to be a member of the EU.


This approval could take up to nine months after Brexit day, leaving British businesses effectively unable to export during that time.


The UK Government has said it is ‘exploring alternative approaches’ to speed up the process.


Organic exports outside the EU


Exports to countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan and South Korea are expected to face ‘minimal disruption’ as the UK intends to recognise those countries currently equivalent to the EU.


Organic imports from the EU


The UK has said it ‘anticipates’ continuing to accept EU organic products in a no-deal scenario, but makes clear this will be at the Government’s discretion.


Trade with the EU


Exporting businesses are urged to find out what the likely changes to customs and excise procedures will be and engage with other elements of the supply chain to ensure planning is taking place at all levels.


The Government has also called on businesses to ‘consider how they will submit customs and export declarations’, suggesting it may be necessary to engage customs brokers, freight forwarders and logistics providers, or acquire the appropriate software – all of which will ‘come at a cost’.


Other recommendations include renegotiating commercial terms to reflect any changes in tariffs. For more information on the tariffs which would apply to different sectors in the event of a no-deal Brexit, click HERE.


Any business wanting regular updates on Brexit planning can register for HMRC’s EU Exit update service.


Developing GMOs


The Government expects there to be ‘no significant implications’ for the development of GMOs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


Existing EU law would be modified to reflect UK circumstances, but would continue to apply, with the release of GMOs continuing to require prior authorisation.


Decisions on GMO trials would be made on a devolved basis, but regulation of GMO marketing would be made at a UK level.


Trade in GMOs


After Brexit, UK businesses would only be able to export GMO products if the GMO in question had EU marketing approval.


The same would apply from the EU side – EU imports would only be accepted if they had UK approval.


CLA president Tim Breitmeyer: “It is encouraging to see the UK Government is making contingency plans in the event of a no deal Brexit. It is important to provide clear and comprehensive guidance to help farmers prepare for the eventuality that the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement.


“Of particular note is the advice for organic businesses, which highlights the extreme consequences of a no-deal situation which could impact a number of sectors.”


NFU president Minette Batters: “While these notices are an essential part of Government’s plans for preparing for all outcomes, they serve as a sobering reminder of what is at stake for farmers in the event of a no deal.


“The technical notice for organic farming is a warning for us on the future of trade of all agri-food products – if all these products were subjected to the same problems in approvals and certification then this could result in effectively a trade embargo on exports to the EU.


“Not only would this be hugely disruptive but it threatens livelihoods and businesses in the UK.”


Vicki Hird, sustainable farming campaign co-ordinator, Sustain: “The Government has now confirmed a ‘no deal’ Brexit will be complex and bureaucratic for UK businesses, including farmers and food companies importing or exporting from the EU.


“They are advising today that British businesses should consider ‘engaging a customs broker or acquiring the appropriate software and authorisations from HMRC’, which will come ‘at a cost’.


“The vague guarantees on rural development and agri-environment funding will do little to allay fears of a harmful Agriculture Bill outcome.


“The promises to guarantee farm support under the same set of EU ‘rules’ will be a mixed blessing for farmers wanting better regulations but absolutely reliant on a lucrative, steady EU market. With no clarity on trade deals elsewhere it is the worst outcome.”


Christ Atkinson, head of standards, Soil Association: “The technical notices published today offer no further clarity to businesses and provide neither reassurance nor advice on how to prepare for a potential ‘no deal’ scenario. They confirm the scale of the challenge we face and the vital importance that the UK achieves a workable deal with the EU.


“The information outlined raises concerns that imports and exports to and from the EU may be held up for months. The critical issue of continuing recognition by the EU of the organic status of products certified in the UK is left entirely unresolved by this paper and a similar document that was issued by the EU some months ago.


“We are also concerned that a new UK-owned imports traceability system to replace the current EU system would need to be in place by 29 March 2019. In our view this is an unrealistic goal within the time frame. Delays could significantly hinder trade.”

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