Brexit and Organic Certification - the need to know
Brexit and Organic Certification
Keeping you informed
Having consulted with our licensees and trade stakeholders, we're very aware of the uncertainties and concerns surrounding organic trade in the post-Brexit environment. As the UK’s largest organic certifier, where possible, we want to reassure and support businesses in making important commercial decisions in the coming months.
Although the transitional period announced last March means we anticipate some breathing space, with no final confirmation of a Brexit deal at this time, we're continuing to look at solutions.
Implications of a no deal Brexit
The UK Government Technical Paper on Organic Production and Labelling released in August provides some clarity on what would happen should the UK leave the EU without a deal. Since August, Soil Association Certification have been in regular communication with DEFRA, representing our licensees concerns and seeking clarity on critical trade issues.
Standards and control
If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 without a deal, we would continue to maintain existing high standards and control bodies would continue certifying UK organic operators for UK trade
Exporting to the EU
The UK will not become an ‘Approved Third Country’ for the purposes of organic regulation. UK businesses would only be able to export organic food & drink products to the EU if by the 29th March, if they are certified by an organic control body recognised and approved by the EU Commission to operate in the UK. (EN1235 status).
UK (or other international) control bodies are not permitted to make these applications until we become a 3rd country on the 30th March, but we continue to make preparations to apply. In the meantime DEFRA are exploring with the EU Commission how the UK might expedite applications for all six UK certifiers. We continue to anticipate some gap between UK exit and EN1235 status being in place, during which UK organic would not be cleared to enter the EU.
Importing products into the UK from the EU
Acceptance of EU certified product from the UK remains at the discretion of the UK Government. Product from the EU (and EEA states) won’t require any checks at point of entry, unless there is a specific integrity risk identified for a particular raw ingredient. There will be no need for Certificates of Import (COIs) or other paperwork to be completed.
Importing from the UK from outside the EU
Whilst the UK transitions Commission Regulation (EC) No 1235/2008 to UK law, the UK will continue to recognise products from all 11 EU approved third countries (detailed in Annex.3 of the EU organic regulation) and from other third countries where the certifier of the product has EN1235 approval (detailed in Annex.4 EU organic regulation) .
Importers should continue to use TRACES NT system until 29th March then move across to UK paper-based COI for anything arriving into the UK from outside the EU after 29th March. The UK COI system will require the exporter to complete the certificate for endorsement by the exporter’s certification body. UK ports may accept EU COI’s after 29th for imports from third countries.
We recommend licensees start to inform customers that this will be a new requirement for importing goods into the UK after the 29th March and that UK port health authority are informed if goods are due to arrive without the new UK COI in place. We are not fully clear how goods imported via EU ports will operate, but are seeking clarification from DEFRA. Two options could exist:
1. Goods authorised to enter the EU where a certified importer in based in the EU and goods are cleared by a EU port of entry would be responsibility of EU. Goods then become an EU to UK movement. No COI needed.
2. Importer is based and licensed in the UK then UK has clearance responsibility and a UK COI will be required, regardless of point on entry (UK or EU).
Labelling for export
When Soil Association Certification are able to certify your operation in such a manner that you are able to export organic food & drink to the EU, the EU organic logo will continue to be optional.
Products already placed on the UK market on or before 29 March can continue to be sold until the stocks are exhausted. Where placed on the UK market after 29 March 2019 and where (as a result of EU exit) the information is technically incorrect.
For exports to the non-EU, we advise checking with organic authority in the export market whether labels/certification will be accepted.
There could be other statutory labeling requirements (for example an EU based consumer contact address), which customers in the EU may insist on being technically correct for any goods imported after the 30th March, although definitions of what constitutes ‘Goods Placed on The Market’ remains complex, so you should check specific requirements with your import customer.
Labelling for the UK market
The EU organic logo must not be used on any organic products sold within the UK, unless the UK and EU reach an equivalency arrangement before exit day, or the final UK operator is certified by an organic control body recognised and approved by the EU to operate in the UK.
The UK government will encourage enforcement officers to take a pragmatic approach to enforcement, which fully protects the interests of consumers while ensuring industry are able to manage the scale of labelling changes required. Soil Association Certification will be unable to approve new labels with EU logo after the 30th March, but for existing labels a pragmatic approach will be taken in regards to timescales for removing the logo. We are discussing label compliance with other UK certifiers and Defra to ensure consistency of approach.
For agriculture and food businesses who would like more general information on no deal preparation for business, including port clearance, EORI and product licences, the government have published guidance in the form of a short video on YouTube.
Activity from Defra and other international organic bodies
DEFRA are progressing statutory instruments (enforcement and regs) ready to support the withdrawal bill regarding organic regulations being embedded in UK Law. DEFRA are also progressing equivalence deals with non-EU international trading partners including the USA, Australia and Canada. These cannot be formalised before 28 March, but nations can sign letters of intent. Find out more about Brexit implications for export
Our progress to-date
We have applied for 1235 scope extension for UK to the EU Commission, are investigating setting up in the Republic of Ireland as an accredited certification body and are establishing partnerships to improve access to key non-EU markets, once we are outside the EU. Find out more about the process
Call to action
We're calling for DEFRA to negotiate with EU alternative unconventional options if necessary. This could include unilateral acceptance of organic imports from the UK by the EU, in recognition and consideration of the interdependency of the organic supply chain across the EU. Our preference is that the UK Government apply for the UK as a whole to be deemed a country of equivalency under Annex 3 of Regulation 1235/2008.
Both of the above options are complex and time consuming due to EU approval processes, but we are calling for both to be fast tracked in this unprecedented situation.
We will continue to lobby and high level of public debate to keep pressure on UK and EU to avoid no deal scenario, and are asking for the sector to support an IFOAM positioning paper currently being drafted to lobby the EU Commission.
We will maintain our ongoing dialogue with DEFRA to clarify their process in managing the EU discussion and reaching a solution to achieve continuity for organic trade between EU and UK. We are also calling on DEFRA to clarify plans for Certificate of Inspection required for export to EU and progress with testing an import system to replace TRACES from 29 March. In addition, we will press on with our Republic of Ireland application.
We acknowledge that businesses need to continue to consider contingency such as stock piling critical long-life ingredients, to mitigate supply challenges during early weeks of a potential no deal Britain.
Listen back to our CEO Martin Sawyer in the second of our Brexit webinars, explaining some of the key impacts Brexit will have for organic businesses
Brexit and Organic Certification Frequently Asked Questionsread more