New year, new beginnings. This certainly rings true to Boris Johnson and his government, who after years of negotiations with Brussels have finally broken free from the chains of European integration and showed the nation what Brexit actually means: paperwork, delays and bureaucracy. But alas, the UK and the EU began a new relationship on the 1st January 2021, with a new bi-lateral agreement that prevented a no-deal Brexit and ensured both sides continue to trade tariff-and-quota-free. The United Kingdom can now stand outside the reach of EU regulation, and has already begun to work on setting its own regulatory standards on issues such as gene editing for plants and animals, a change that would set Britons in direct regulatory clash with their closest neighbours. Without governmental representation in the EU, British businesses need to get serious about promoting their interests on the other side of the Channel (the Whitehouse team tells you how in our latest blog post).
The new year also brought change to the Rue de la Loi, the Brussels street that the EU institutions call home. The Germans said auf wiedersehen to the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, giving way to the Portuguese who are now in charge of setting the political direction of the EU for the next six months. The EU Member State that is geographically closest to the USA will take on the task of forging a new relationship with President-elect Joe Biden, and begin the implementation of the EU’s €1.8 trillion COVID-19 recovery plan, no easy feat!
Every month, The Whitehouse Consultancy sums up the main news, updates and upcoming events within the foods, drink and nutrition sector. In January:
EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy continues to be rolled out in 2021: The Commission is currently seeking feedback on proposals to review the bloc’s rules on food contact materials, the setting of nutrient profiles and the revision of the EU’s Food information to consumers Regulation. In 2021, expect new proposals enshrining sustainability into the corporate strategies of food businesses as well as regulations on the marketing of food products.
Don’t worry, we’re still friends! UK and EU begin new relationship: The UK’s Brexit transition period came to an end on 31st January 2021, a time by which the new cooperation agreement between the two parties came into effect. The new trade and cooperation agreement ensures that both nations continue to trade with no tariffs and no quotas for the overall majority of goods, although new sanitary and phytosanitary requirements apply to food and animal-derived products.
Brexit means… super-cows? The UK government opened a consultation in January on gene editing, aiming to introduce the technology to English crops and cattle. Critics warn that gene edited foodstuffs would be met with significant market barriers in the EU, which considers the practice to fall under the bloc’s stringent rules severely restricting the sale of genetically modified products.
2021 marks the end of cheap fizzy drinks for Poles: A sugar and caffeine tax came into effect in Poland in the new year, which has increased the prices of some drinks containing sugar and sweeteners as well as caffeine, heavily sweetened fruit juices and energy drinks by up to 35%.
Scotland clashes with English rules on the authorisation of CBD products: The Scottish Food Standards Agency has warned producers of CBD products that from 1st January, these cannot be placed in the Scottish market without a full novel food authorisation. This position diverges by the one adopted by the English food standards agency, which allows producers to submit their novel food dossiers by March for products sold in January.
EU Launches information tool for labelling requirements: The Commission launched a new Food Labelling Information System, which allows users to find the labelling requirements for various categories of food products, at European level. The new tool is designed to help food business operators identify the mandatory labelling indications that should appear on their products across the 27 EU Member States.
If your business needs any support or advice in navigating these policy challenges, or if you have any questions about how these may impact your industry, please do get in touch by contacting Viviana Spaghetti, Director of European Affairs at Viviana.Spaghetti@whitehousecomms.com