Exiting the European Union (Agriculture)

Part of Integrated Care Regulations – in the House of Commons at 10:03 pm on 18th March 2019.

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Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip 10:03 pm, 18th March 2019

My hon. Friend can be assured that we are in no way seeking to water down our standards. We will no doubt talk further about that during the rest of the debate.

The approach that I have referred to responds to industry concerns and helps to maintain continuity, ensuring a flow of products. The organic regulations will now apply to imports at UK borders rather than EU borders and will ensure the continued regulation and certification of imported organic products to the standards currently applicable in the UK—I underline that point. The import system allows traceability of each product at all stages of production, preparation and distribution. This gives consumers confidence that imported organic products have been produced to the same high standards as UK organic produce.

The draft Organic Production and Control (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 ensure that organic standards remain the same for organic operators within the UK by making operable EU legislation in Council regulation 834/2007 and Commission regulation 889/2008. Without these amendments, part of the legislation would not be operable when applied in a UK-only context—for example, references to the UK as a member state. The certification and traceability of organic food and feed products will continue and standards will remain the same. This instrument sets out minor technical amendments. It also references the time-limited period of 21 months during which we would not require additional border checks for organic products being imported from the EU, European economic area and Switzerland.

The first set of regulations concerns reserved matters, as these regulations relate to the control of imports and exports. The second set concerns devolved matters. That is why we have two SIs before us today. Although there is no formal duty to consult as there are no substantive changes to the status quo, we have engaged with the United Kingdom Organic Certifiers Group, UKOCG, and from that engagement it is clear at the outset that the UK organic control bodies are particular concerned about continuing recognition of UK certified organic products by the EU and recognition of EU imports by the UK. Our decision to continue to recognise products from the EU, EEA and Switzerland for a time-limited period has been welcomed by the group as it provides certainty on imports for the immediate future. We continue to work closely with the group on this and on the future implementation of the UK regulations.

These statutory instruments apply to the United Kingdom, and we have worked with the devolved Administrations on their development. Officials have had very helpful discussions with their counterparts in the DAs, and we are working with them on all aspects of the organics regime to form an agreement on how we can all work together moving forward.