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Brexit update on out of scope products, logistical challenges and paper COIs

Brexit update - 11th June 2021

Although lobbying, press work and Defra meetings have continued, April and May have not seen significant movement regards Brexit and Organic Trade requirements.

However, much remains under discussion, and we'd like to use this bulletin to summarise some of the trade deal scope issues that remain, update you on exports to Italy, and invite you to tell us about your post-Brexit logistical challenges.
 

The TCA, 'Out of Scope' products and EC1235 – issues yet to be resolved 

With the May EU COP meeting now several weeks behind us, there is still no clarity on UK organic certifiers ongoing status under regulation EC1235/2008. Although all UK certifiers continue to be listed in the UK section of EC1235/2008, Soil Association Certification remains the only certifier to appear in the TRACES NT system when businesses register consignments of products for export to the EU that fall outside the scope of the TCA.

Although we can continue to deliver this certification solution for our clients, uncertainty around our ability to continue to do so remains. Despite continued lobbying on the part of both Soil Association Certification and UKCOG, a clear response from the European Commission (EC) is yet to be received. However, Lord Frost has responded to our call to action, suggesting the issue will be raised.

With the ratification of the TCA, we're hopeful that the commencement of a working group involving Defra and the EC in July will see progress made. In the meantime, the UK is laying down a Statutory Instrument that could see recognition of EU organic products extended, and give the UK the ability to amend lists of approved third countries and certifiers. If passed, no GB Certification of Inspection (COI) would be required for products from the EU until 2023.

As the scope of the trade deal only covers products produced or processed in GB, the definitions of which activities can be classed as processing remain unclear and require some interpretation. GB certifiers have been working with Defra to agree some common activities, and have recently agreed that blending ingredients and placing tea in teabags can be regarded as processed. You can find a list of other activities that would be classed as processed in the scope guidance. We continue to work with our clients to determine status of other activities on a case-by-case basis.

Decree affecting imports into Italy reviewed

In April, we informed our clients of a new Italian decree requiring sampling to be carried out on consignments of a wide range of organic products arriving in Italy. We understand that as of 27th May, a new decree has been published, cancelling the requirement for this additional sampling.

Post-Brexit logistical challenges

If your efforts to get organic goods in or out of the country are being frustrated, you’re not alone. Following the end of the Brexit transition period, clients have been sharing with us their experiences and challenges around freight and logistics. Our Senior Business Development Manager, Lee Holdstock, has been getting to grips with the issues and is keen to explore what we can do as a sector to help get goods moving more smoothly. You can read Lee’s latest blog post about these issues, and if you’d like to learn more or can contribute on the topic, please register your interest by completing our survey.

Covid derogations and potential need for paper COIs

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the EC has published regulation 2021/772 that allows a derogation for the requirement to have paper copies of COIs when exporting to the EU, EEA or Northern Ireland. This derogation is in place until the 1st July 2021.

The regulation, EC1235/2008, requires certification bodies to issue paper copies of COIs, in addition to the information in TRACES NT, unless the COI is digitally signed in TRACES NT. The ability for certification bodies to make a digital signature, known as ‘E-Seal,’ can only be enabled by the EC. There has been a significant delay in this process and currently GB certifiers are not able to use E-Seal.

Defra are working on E-Seal functionality to allow COIs to be electronically signed for all COI’s under the GB-ORG-05 code. Provided this is in place, even where the derogation is not extended by the EC, paper copies will still not be required for these COIs. However, if you're exporting using the GB-BIO-142 code, the EC have not given us access to E-Seal. If the derogation is not extended, paper copies will be required to be presented at the port of entry from the 1st of July for consignments certified under BIO-142. As a result of this, there will be an increase to the price of COIs to cover the cost of postage. We're currently reviewing this. If paper copies are required, you'll need to wait to receive these prior to the goods leaving, which we appreciate will impact on transportation timescales.

We've been requesting access to E-Seal for a number of months for COIs issued under GB-BIO-142
,however, to date, the EC have not enabled this, and we don't know when they will do so. We hope the derogation will be extended in the meantime.

Northern Ireland, GB-BIO-142 scheme and new EC 2018/848 regulation

The EU’s new organic regulation, EC 2018/848, comes into force on 1st January 2022, and this will apply to all our operators in Northern Ireland, and those operators with products we license under the GB-BIO-142 scheme. We're currently working through the published regulation, making a comparison to the current organic regulation (834/2007); although, at this time, a number of implementation and delegated acts are still to be published. Once this process is complete, we'll issue guidance and a new standards document to licensees in Northern Ireland, and those we certify under the GB-BIO-142 scheme.