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Exiting the European Union (Agriculture)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:41 pm on 1st October 2019.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:41 pm, 1st October 2019

I beg to move,

That the draft Common Agricultural Policy and Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which were laid before this House on 24 July, be approved.

This statutory instrument concerns the common organisation of the agriculture markets, more commonly referred to as the CMO. As I said earlier, in March this year six EU exit operability SIs concerning the CMO were debated in the House, approved and made. They applied operability amendments to retained EU regulations which set out the overarching framework for the CMO and the detailed rules contained therein. This instrument amends some of the existing SIs to make simple corrections ensuring that when provisions refer to a transitional period, in common with the previous SI, it can be realised as intended, notwithstanding the delaying of EU exit until 31 October.

Five different transitional periods are set out in the existing EU exit SIs. The first and second concern special provisions for the import of wine and the labelling of imported wine. Under EU law, third countries wishing to import wine into the EU must produce it in accordance with specified oenological practices, and are required to provide key information on the content of the shipment, including a certificate evidencing compliance with EU rules and an analysis report. Those rules are being retained through retained EU law, but we are only retaining oenological practices that relate to domestic wine production.

We are also amending wine labelling rules to make them more appropriate for the UK market. For example, we are requiring certain information to be written in English whether or not it also appears in another language. However, we are providing for a transitional period of 21 months, consistent with that in other labelling provisions, during which wine that is labelled in accordance with current rules and produced in accordance with oenological practices authorised under EU law may be imported into the UK for marketing to ensure that there is no disruption to the import of wine from the EU. During that period, we will also accept EU forms and certificates from third countries alongside the new UK certificates.

The third and fourth transitional periods concern labelling for packages of fruit and vegetables, and for beef and veal. To ensure that consumers are not misled, for some products labelling changes are required primarily as a result of our no longer being a member of the EU. The terms “EU” and “non-EU” will be removed as options for describing the origin of the products, and pre-packaged fruit and vegetables will need to be labelled with the name and address of a UK seller after we leave the EU, rather than the information about an EU seller. We have introduced a transitional period of 21 months to mitigate the effects of these labelling changes on business.

The final transition period concerns import documentation for hops. Current EU legislation requires hops imported from third countries to be accompanied by an attestation certifying compliance with EU marketing standards. We are rolling over this legislation into UK law and providing for a transitional period of two years for documents that we accept from third countries, including the EU—which is about to become a third country—attesting that imported hops meet marketing standards requirements. During those two years both the new UK forms and certificates and the EU versions can be accepted, provided that the EU’s standards remain at least as high as those in the UK. This will allow importers time to transition to using the new forms of documentation, while ensuring that we accept only produce that is assured to meet UK standards.

In the original SIs, in common with the previous one we debated, the end dates of the transitional periods are explicitly stated as a specific date. For example, a transitional period lasting two years is expressed as a

“transitional period ending 29th March 2021”.

However, the extension of article 50 to 31 October means that we need to change the legislation to ensure that the intended period of transition remains in place. Therefore, the instrument under debate now makes a simple amendment to the existing EU Exit operability SIs so that the transitional periods apply for the duration intended.

The instrument also makes minor amendments to a series of other domestic EU exit SIs relating to marketing standards, the horizontal CAP legislation and the rural development programmes in order to remove ambiguity and inconsistencies, or to simply correct typographical errors. This instrument relates to areas of devolved competence. I can assure the House that we have consulted extensively with the devolved Administrations on its content and have received their consent to lay the SI. I therefore commend these regulations to the House.