24 December 2020 (Directly transcribed from a Defra email – most important info highlighted)     

Update on changes to EU plant health and marketing legislation

As you may be aware, discussions have been ongoing with the EU Commission on the subject of equivalence for plant reproductive material, plant health prohibitions and changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The EU have voted in the PAFF committee on lifting the prohibition on ware potatoes for export to the EU and NI. Also to remove certain other plant prohibitions and restrictions in the Annexes of the EU’s Phytosanitary Conditions Regulation (i.e. those which do not apply to ‘European’ countries). The effect is that ware potatoes, tomato plants, strawberry plants, rose plants and certain conifer tree species can continue to be exported to the EU and moved to NI after the end of the Transitions Period. (Edit: HTA are seeking clarification of the exact conifer species being referenced)

For other seed and propagating material the EU have indicated that they intend to grant bi-lateral equivalence for fruit and vegetable propagating material following a vote in the PAFF committee and they also intend to progress with a Council decision for agricultural species and forest reproductive material. At this stage we do not have confirmation of timings, but we will continue to press for further details.

Under the recent agreement between the UK and the EU for Northern Ireland the UK has agreed to the addition of the missing seed marketing directives for fodder, ornamentals and vegetable. This means that the normal rules for marketing seed in these directives into the EU post transition period will apply to movement into Northern Ireland. However, the EU has indicated that it intends to grant equivalence to the UK and this means that the impact on NI and EU trade should be resolved when this is finalised.

The EU has confirmed that they will not accept our case for a permanent change to the prohibition on seed potatoes. We will press on with continuing to request that prohibitions for the commodities that the EU has not lifted in the New Year, however it can take a significant period of time before the EU Commission makes a final decision on requests and there is no guarantee that they will agree to them. 

Following the votes referred to above, confirmation of the decisions and full details are expected to be published by the EU on 28 December.

Defra have also updated our Q&A document with further information, updates are highlighted in yellow: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/assets/uploads/Collated-Comms-Document-External-20201223.pdf

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In addition to the above, there are several very recent updates on Defra’s Plant Health Portal:

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