To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions he has had with (a) the Northern Ireland Executive and (b) other stakeholders on the enabling of importation of seed and ware potatoes from Great Britain to Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period.
Defra understands the challenging position of businesses that export seed and ware potatoes to the EU and NI and is working together with DAERA and EU officials with the aim of ensuring that both trade and the movement of goods will continue at the end of the Transition Period.
The UK government is engaging with businesses and other stakeholders on this issue and further Government support that could be provided to address the new requirements on sanitary and phytosanitary goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. This includes looking at the inspection fees associated with phytosanitary certification, should ware and seed potato exports be permitted, and the support that could be offered to minimise or eliminate these costs.
Defra has been explaining the transitional provisions to businesses, also suggesting that both the seeds and phytosanitary issues can be mitigated by moving seed and other propagating material and commodities such as ware potatoes before 31 December in anticipation of an equivalence agreement being reached on, or shortly after this date as well as the lifting of plant health import restrictions.
Defra is working with the EU to reach a reciprocal agreement on equivalence and to remove the plant health prohibitions, including those on seed and ware potatoes, as soon as possible. There have been two discussions with EU officials on 11 and 13 November where the EU have been exploring the most suitable legal routes for granting equivalence to the UK, however they have not given an indication of the timeline for this yet.
Defra submitted a response to the EU on 20 November, setting out the UK's legislation for seed marketing and plant health controls together with our evidence dossier which sets out our controls and data for meeting plant health and seed certification requirements. We received a further response on 4 December and we responded on 11 December providing additional information to the EU.