EU grants UK third country status to protect exports

The UK has been granted third country status by the EU, allowing the trade of live animals and animal products with the continent in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Approval was awarded to the UK after it passed European animal health and biosecurity standards, which will come as reassuring news for farm businesses as the country edges closer to the 12 April Brexit deadline.

See also: How Defra answered farmers’ questions at MPs’ Brexit meeting

However, if the UK and EU agrees to extend Article 50 beyond this Friday (12 April) there would need to be another vote to secure the UK’s status.

Food and animal welfare minister David Rutley issued the following statement:

“This is good news for UK businesses. It demonstrates our very high standards of biosecurity and animal health, which we will continue to maintain after we leave the EU.

“If you or your business import or export animal and animal products, or import high-risk food, then I urge you to visit our guidance pages on for what you need to do to be ready to continue to trade post Brexit.

“Our top priority remains delivering a negotiated deal, but it is the job of a responsible government to ensure we are prepared for all scenarios, including no deal.”

Third party status, also known as “national listed status”, is the EU classification for non-member states to export into the single market and requires high standards on biosecurity, animal health and food hygiene.

Exports of animals and animal products will still be required to go through an EU inspection post and businesses still need an Export Health Certificate (EHC) to meet requirements.

Defra is advising exporters to send one copy of the EHC with the shipment and a copy to the EU importer.  

If the UK comes to an agreement with the EU then no rules will change until the end of any transitional period – which would be 2020 under Theresa May’s current deal.

UK importers of live animals, germinal products and certain animal products will continue to have access to the Trade Control and Expert System (Traces) until later this year.

Import/export rules

Important: Exporters will need to follow government rules for third countries if the UK leaves the EU with no deal on 12 April

Guidance for importers

Guidance for exporters

Union reaction

Both the National Sheep Association (NSA) and NFU Scotland (NFUS) welcomed the announcement, but reaffirmed their opposition to a no-deal Brexit.

“While not surprising, it’s positive that the European Union has agreed to approve third country listing for the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but people need to be aware that this would still come at an unacceptable cost,” said NFUS president Andrew McCornick.

“This listing is necessary to allow continued exports if the UK crashed out of the EU, but it does not solve the massive problems associated with a cliff-edge Brexit,” he added.

Eleanor Phipps of the NSA added that, without the status, UK sheepmeat export markets disappearing overnight would have been very damaging for the sector.

Ms Phipps added, “In order to utilise the now secured EU market for UK sheepmeat, exporters would have to face the 40-50% tariffs to export, as NSA has previously warned.

“In that context, we’re still very clear that a no-deal Brexit would not be desirable for our industry.”

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