Exporting food from the UK to the EU – the impact of Brexit

13th February 2020

The Withdrawal Agreement was signed by Boris Johnson on 24 January 2020 and has been ratified by the EU. As part of the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK and the EU have agreed a transition period to provide continuity and certainty while they negotiate the terms of a future agreement. This transition period will end at 11pm on 31 December 2020, unless the parties agree to extend it until 1 July 2021. During this transition period existing EU laws and new EU law coming into force during the transition period will apply in the UK. Therefore UK food labelling law is likely to remain unchanged until the end of the year and in the meantime, we expect to receive further information and guidance regarding future changes.

The guidance sets out the key steps that businesses should take and includes a requirement to “check what you need to do for the type of goods you export”.

FSA priority

The minutes from the Food Standards Agency’s latest ‘Brexit meeting’ have confirmed that leaving the EU has not changed the FSA’s top priority which is “to ensure that food remains safe and [is] what it says it is”. At this stage it is very difficult to predict what changes will be made to UK labelling law once the transition period expires. However, it is likely that the basic principles will remain the same with existing EU law (namely, Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers) being adopted through new legislation, or new legislation which mirrors existing law.

Please note, the UK could potentially be left in a ‘no deal’ scenario if an agreement cannot be reached by the end of the transition period in December 2020. The Government has issued food and drink labelling guidance in the event that there is a no-deal Brexit.

Guidance from UK government

In relation to complying with EU laws, the UK government has produced guidance (available here) regarding the export of goods from the UK to the EU. The guidance sets out the key steps that businesses should take and includes a requirement to “check what you need to do for the type of goods you export”. The additional requirements necessary are likely to vary depending upon the type of product being exported and the Member State it is being exported to. Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 is helpful in this respect as it sets out the EU’s labelling requirements, for example, it includes provisions concerning the labelling of alcohol beverages. However, individual Members States may have adopted more stringent requirements and therefore it would be advisable to ascertain whether any additional labelling requirements are necessary.

For more information please get in touch with food safety lawyers Natascha Gaut and Prem Thakor.

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