Technical barriers to trade and SPS measures

Brexit deal analysis 

What does the Trade Agreement say?

From 1 January 2021, the UK and the EU will operate separate regulatory regimes.

Under the FTA, the UK and the EU have agreed to eliminate unnecessary technical barriers to trade (TBT). Both parties will be required to carry out impact assessments of planned technical regulations, and to use international standards as the basis for these regulations. Conformity assessment procedures, where required, need to be proportionate to the risks involved – with a supplier’s declaration of conformity being sufficient in areas where that is currently in place.

However, there is no general provision for the mutual recognition of conformity assessment processes.

Specific measures have been agreed regarding chemicals, medicines, automotive vehicles and parts, organic products and wine in order to facilitate trade in these areas. For example, there is provision for the acceptance of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) documents issued by the UK/EU and equivalence for certain organic products. In other areas there are some limited recognition arrangements, e.g. air carrier operating authorisations.

The Trade Specialised Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade will consider areas of cooperation in the mutual interest of both parties, e.g. in relation to exchange of information and establishment of trade facilitating initiatives.

The UK and the EU will operate separate sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) regimes for the protection of human, animal and plant health. Each party will implement SPS measures for certain animals, plants and their products which are “proportionate to the risks identified”, and based on the current SPS measures applied to imports from third countries. No mutual recognition arrangements have been agreed. The Trade Specialised Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures will regularly review the provisions in place.

How does this compare to what was expected?

The provisions here are largely as expected, with limited arrangements in place overall. They very much mirror the basic texts from other FTAs which the EU has agreed.

The UK was seeking mutual recognition of conformity assessments (which would have allowed UK bodies to confirm goods meet EU standards and vice versa); however, such provisions have not been agreed. The UK also sought specific annexes allowing greater cooperation in certain heavily regulated goods, e.g. chemicals and medicinal products – and specific trade facilitation arrangements have been agreed for a handful of sectors.

The UK’s draft text did include provisions to establish an equivalence mechanism for SPS measures – which would have been similar to the EU/Canada FTA and the EU/New Zealand veterinary agreement. However, no such provisions have been included in the final text.

What are the actions for business?

Businesses selling products in both the UK and the EU will need to comply with two separate legal and regulatory regimes.

Businesses will need to ensure processes are in place to meet the compliance requirements in each market. Where conformity assessment procedures require approval from a third-party body, a business will need to obtain approvals in both the UK and the EU. The UK has already indicated there will be an implementation period for use of the UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark, which will replace the CE mark. For most products, the CE mark will continue to be accepted for goods place on the market in Great Britain (GB) until 31 December 2021.

Businesses will need to prepare for SPS measures to apply to movements of animals, plants and their products between GB and the EU (specific rules apply in respect of Northern Ireland). SPS measures will be phased in for most imports of such goods into GB from the EU, as previously announced under the UK’s Border Operating Model. Businesses will need to prepare for notification, certification (e.g. Export Health Certificates) and physical product inspections – with some goods needing to pass through designated border inspection points.

To discuss specific support with your Brexit preparations based on this latest development contact: Deloitte Brexit Insights.


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