Certifying products outside TCA scope
As we've communicated in previous editions of Certification News, the scope of the current Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and UK is limited in terms of organic equivalency.
Only products grown/produced or processed in GB or EU are covered by the agreement and may be traded between the two zones.
This Certification News article is dedicated to the current challenges around this limitation in scope of the TCA, and potential impact on trade in organic products it currently excludes.
Definitions of processed and TCA
We're aware that the definition of what constitutes ‘processed’ has been unclear, and a number of businesses have been are unsure as to whether their products fall within the TCA. Defra are still awaiting legal advice from their lawyers on a number of points, but we can confirm that blended products can be regarded as ‘processed,’ and so fall within the scope of the TCA. Read our updated guidance for more information >
Possible issue with products outside the scope of the TCA
For products not covered by the TCA, Soil Association Certification are certifying goods under our EC1235 Annex IV accreditation, which was awarded by the EC in December 2020. We're listed in Annex IV of EC regulation 1235/2008 with approval to operate in GB, and we refer to this as the BIO-142 scheme*.
We're making our licensees aware now that there's increasing concern that UK organic certification bodies may be removed from Annex IV of EC regulation 1235/2008 by the European Commission, leaving no facility for future certification of products intended for export to Northern Ireland or the EU that fall outside the TCA.
*Please refer to our Export Resources page and Scopes Guidance contained within for more information on what's covered by the TCA and what to do if your products are outside scope.
Sector letter to the Cabinet Office
We're urgently seeking clarification on the above from the European Commission (EC) and are working hard to raise awareness with the UK Government and the EC - both directly, and through European stakeholder groups - of the potential impact on the UK organic sector the removal of UK certification bodies from Annex IV would have.
As a member of the UK Organic Certifiers Group (UKOCG) we, along with other certifiers, sent this letter to the UK’s chief negotiator last week. This highlights the impact the limited nature of the TCA is having on organic businesses and certification bodies. It requests clarity on future trade of organic product outside of scope of the TCA, and certainty regarding ongoing inclusion of all UK organic certification bodies within Annex IV of EC regulation 1235/2008.
Requirement for COIs to import from the EU delayed until 1st January 2022
Immediately following the letter to Lord Frost, the UK government announced an extension to the current grace period relating to the requirement for GB COIs from the EU, EEA and Switzerland (previously required from 1st July 2021). These will now not be required until 1st January 2022.
We welcome this proactive move on the part of the UK government, as it affords GB business and their EU trading partners further time to adapt. It also provides additional time for the UK and EC to progress towards a permanent solution - the most derisible outcome being a revision of the scope of the TCA to include all organic products and COIs not required in either direction.
To minimise trade disruption after 1st Jan 2022, in the event the above is not achieved, we believe it's important that the UK government also prioritises the implementation of an alternative solution for EU imports that fall outside of the scope of the TCA, to ensure GB companies can continue to access this important supply route.
Next steps and what you can do to help
We'll continue to press both Defra and the EC for assurances on future trade of out-of-scope products and update our licensees in due course. In the meantime, it's important that as much information as possible on the operational impact to the organic sector is made available to Defra for the purposes of future negotiations with the EU.
We, therefore, kindly ask that our licensees contact Defra and share with them any details of anticipated commercial impact, should you no longer be able to export or import out-of-scope products to NI or the EU. Also, if you have the opportunity to raise awareness of these issues within your EU supply chains, please do so they can also raise concerns with the EU Commission.