No-deal Brexit advice for agriculture

On 19th December the Government issued over 30 papers setting out and updating the implications of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit for agriculture.

The papers cover many areas, ranging from generic issues such as upholding environmental standards (which will be covered by their own Act of Parliament) to very specific advice on import/export.

Some of the announcements, such as the papers on Basic Payment and Rural Development Fund arrangements will be relevant to most agricultural businesses. These tend simply to confirm that DEFRA will take over the EU payment functions, so it should be ‘business as usual’. Similarly, papers on the future licensing of fertilisers and sprays envisage independent UK licensing authorities, minimal divergence from EU rules in the short term and a transitional period where existing approvals will continue, so again no immediate action is required.

No-deal Brexit considerations

There are, however, a number of papers which contain specific advice and where farmers need to start considering the issue in the very near future.

Plants and timber

Imports and exports of plants and timber will no longer be covered by EU passporting arrangements and plants coming from outside the EU but via EU ports will need to be inspected at approved centres (not necessarily ferry ports).

Animals

Importers of animals will need to use a new import notification system which should be in place by the end of March 2019. Exports of animals from the UK to the EU would need to be inspected at the border, and those transporting live animals to the EU will need to appoint a representative in an EU country. It seems likely that the UK will unilaterally apply tighter animal welfare rules on live exports.

Labelling

Finally, there are papers dealing with labelling, addresses and geographical indication. Here existing EU rules will be rolled over in the short term but ultimately changes in labelling will need to reflect the fact that the UK is no longer within the EU, and some more specific details of origin will be required.

Commenting on the papers, Head of Agriculture and Rural Business John Billings remarked:

“This new information adds little that we did not already know to the issue of mainstream financial support, although the reassurance is welcome. As expected the main changes will fall on those importing and exporting – for all those involved in cross border trade it is absolutely essential that the advice coming out is carefully reviewed and steps are taken to minimise the disruption which might flow from a ‘no-deal Brexit’.”