17th August 2021
The EU Commission have made a formal proposal to amend regulation EC1235/2008, removing UK Organic Control Bodies (OCBs) from Annex IV.
This is in order to implement the UK/EU trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) and the EU Commission (COM) have drafted a proposed amendment which will then include the United Kingdom (UK) in Annex III.
Annex III relates to countrywide equivalence instead of individual CB equivalence and the country would be bound by any existing trade agreements.
Due to the limitations of the TCA however, this would prevent the flow of organic products, grown or processed in the EU, from moving into Northern Ireland, Ireland or any EU member state via the UK, as there would be no EU organic controls in the UK covering this flow of products. This would also prevent the free flow of EU certified organic products, certified in non-EU countries under Annex III or IV recognition, moving via the UK into the EU as there would be no EU organic controls in the UK covering this flow of products.
We believe such impairment is contrary to the principle of coherence of EU organic control practices and it violates the basic property rights and the right to engage in commerce of EU organic enterprises.
As a result of the impact this will have on the movement and trade of EU Certified organic products in the EU and Northern Ireland, we suggest rather than to remove UK Organic Control Bodies from Annex IV, the UK Control Bodies should remain in Annex IV but their recognition should have additional exceptions as follows:
Exceptions: In-conversion products. For the United Kingdom: Products grown or processed in the UK covered by Annex III and products imported into the UK with no EU organic recognition under Annex III or IV.
The ‘exceptions’ confirm that Control Body Annex IV recognition would cover everything ‘except’ what which is covered in Annex III (the TCA) and in-conversion products
If UK control bodies remain in Annex IV, with the above proposed exceptions, it will ensure the continued movement into the EU via the UK of EU Certified organic products. At the same time, it will prevent the movement of products that don’t meet these requirements from entering the EU via the UK.
CALL TO ACTION
When making the proposal to amend EC1235/2008 the European Commission requested that EU Member States make known any abstentions or negative votes.
Several Member States subsequently made objections known which led to a cancellation of the initial vote in July.
It is now expected that the next COP meeting will be in mid-September 2021 when it is planned that the amendment will be discussed and voted on.
We strongly encourage you to ask your suppliers and trading partners in the European Union to urgently raise this matter with their Competent Authority and with the European Commission.
Achieving a significant number of Member State objections to this amendment to remove UK CBs from Annex IV could help defeat it.
Submitting a complaint
The European Commission have posted a complaint form for those impacted by the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).
Initially designed to process complaints in the EU about the UK, it also is built to monitor regulatory or agreement breaches and is potentially therefore useful for direct complaints to the European Commission on trade agreement and regulatory divergence.
The portal states that its purpose is “Monitoring the application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the United Kingdom is central in ensuring that European Union citizens and businesses can fully benefit from it.”
While its purpose is to highlight deficiencies in the way the United Kingdom is implementing the Agreement, it does provide the opportunity to highlight broader concerns – which we would suggest include the removal of UK CB’s from Annex IV.
On that basis we would recommend that those potentially affected by this move register their concerns by completing the questions within the portal as follows -
EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement - complaint form 1. Member state(s) affected: Choose relevant option(s)
2. My complaint relates to: A law which affects the way my company trades with the UK
3. My complaint refers to the following area of the agreement: Trade (goods, customs, VAT, services, digital trade, public procurement, etc.)
4. My complaint is based on the following title(s) of the agreement (optional): Heading One: Trade x. Title X: Good regulatory practices and regulatory cooperation
Recently a number of organisations and businesses joined a meeting hosted by the Soil Association, led by Martin Sawyer, CEO of Soil Association Certification and Roger Kerr, chair of the United Kingdom Organic Certifiers Group (UKOCG) and CEO of Organic Farmers & Growers.
The meeting was convened to discuss a possible legal challenge to the European Commission via the Court of Luxembourg to retain UK CBs on Annex IV of EC1235/2008, which would ensure export trade of ‘out of scope’ organic products with Hanspeter Schmidt, a German Attorney-at-Law specialising in EU organic regulation.
If you are interested in exploring the legal route please contact Roger Kerr or Stephen Clarkson and we can then provide the briefing notes from the meeting. They are only available on request due to the confidential nature of the discussions. This will then allow you to discuss this further with your legal representative. Alternatively we can provide Hanspeter’s contact details and you can progress through him.