Following the recent UK general election, it appears likely that the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ will pass through Parliament and that the UK will leave the EU on 31st January 2019. At this point, we will enter a transition period, during which time, export requirements will remain unchanged. Currently this period is due to last until 31st December 2020.
Beyond that, the requirement for export health certificates is uncertain and will depend on the terms of any free trade agreements reached. It is very likely there will be an increase in EHC demand, as other countries that have a FTA with the EU do still require EHCs in many cases. It is well worth lobbying your trade association and local MP to ensure your voice and specific requirements are heard.
Of course it is still possible that we may leave without an agreement of any form and resort to WTO term. We will provide updates as soon as they are known.
In both a no-deal situation or a FTA, products of animal origin (POAO) may then require an Export Health Certificate (EHC), signed by an Official Vet (OV) to travel to the EU and will need to enter via an appropriate Border Inspection Post (BIP).
To further complicate matters, a new EU regulation 2017/625 (official controls regulations (OCR)) came into place on 14th December 2019 and as such may lead to further changes beyond those described above – we are awaiting further clarification on this.
We are getting numerous requests for help and guidance about Brexit, and although there is much still to be answered, we have tried to summarise what we do know. This is of course a rapidly moving field and we are keeping up to date and passing on information as and when we receive it.
DEFRA have released a batch of around 100 new EHCs for export to the EU in case of no-deal. This link can be used to search and download specimens. The list covered various commodities including meat, dairy, fish, egg, honey, gelatin and collagen. The definitions of ‘animal product’, ‘composite product’, ‘meat product’, ‘meat preparation’, ‘processed’ etc are complex and governed, inter alia, by EU regs 853/2004, 28/2012 and 2007/275. The attached guide may be of help.
The exporter will apply to APHA by email with the relevant EHC and an ET169 application form. They may bulk apply for identical EHCs for up to a month supply at a time. The EHCs do not ‘expire’ as such but new versions can come out and country disease status can change. For many loads, especially mixed/complex loads, the actual details of the exact products, final quantity, weight etc can be added on a ‘schedule’ at loading and so do not need to be known at time of application.
The EHCs will be sent by encrypted email or file sharing, on the next working day, for the OV to print on plain paper, stamp and sign, once any necessary checks and supporting evidence has been obtained. This is in English and possibly also the language of the BIP and that of the final destination country. A scanned copy must be made and sent to the exporter – the BIP must be notified electronically, and the CVED part 1 completed, at least 24 hours in advance of arrival of the shipment at the BIP. We must also save a copy.
The physical hard copy must accompany the consignment ie go with the driver, to present at the BIP.
Remember that we CANNOT sign an EHC once goods have left the UK.
Questions that we cannot yet answer…
1 What if the driver loses the original EHC?
We understand EU law insists the original copy must be presented at the BIP, so a ‘cancel and replace’ would be needed. We are not aware of APHA planning to provide an out of office emergency service for this so potentially a lost EHC on a Friday evening may mean a lorry sitting in a port until the Monday or even Tuesday.
2 What goods will need certifying?
As a rule of thumb – all meat goods and most other goods containing >50% POAO that are either not heat treated and/or are not shelf stable. So for example a supermarket shipping raw milk goods, pasteurised milk goods, eggs, poultry, fish, honey, beef, lamb, pork and composite products on one lorry may need 15 or even more EHCs just for that one lorry. If they ship 10 lorries a day, that could be 150 EHCs! If they have more than one consignee, this could be even more.
In terms of categories, some common definitions would include:-
Fresh meat – raw, unprocessed and chilled or frozen
Meat preparation – mince, burgers, sausages, fresh meat with minimal change eg a coating. Must be sent frozen
Meat product – bacon, biltong, cooked chicken slices – undergone processing sufficient to clearly not be recognisable as fresh meat
Composite product – processed POAO together with plant material that is a vital component and not there to add flavour or for processing eg BLT sandwich, lasagne, pork pie, chicken burrito
3 What about consolidators?
If a forwarder is consolidating a load from say 5 different exporters in one lorry, then either the forwarder or the 5 individual companies should apply for the EHCs. If done separately, the certifying OVs will be unable to add any seal details as these will not be known for sure in advance. Equally if one part of the shipment is refused due to incorrect EHC, will the rest be condemned due to contamination risk? There could be one final EHC using the forwarder as the consignor, but the certifying OV will need veterinary documentation from the suppliers to be able to sign.
4 Consignee details
EHCs are normally for a shipment to a single consignee in the destination country. If, say, a supermarket wants to ship to 10 individual stores in the destination country, do they require 10 EHCs or can they set up and ship to a company set up in that country? Does that company need to have a physical presence there?
5 What documents do we need before we can sign?
This will vary from EHC to EHC, but may include evidence of country of origin/any movement during rearing, oval health mark, processing details, disease freedom, non-contamination etc. For lower risk goods (ie not fresh meat/raw dairy), from registered trusted suppliers with verified stable supply chains, we may be able to use a ‘support attestation’ – a veterinary endorsed declaration valid for up to 30 days, subject to regular reconfirmation. If non-UK origin, we will need the documents that accompanied the goods into the UK, plus similar veterinary assurance from the country of origin. We are still waiting on EU guidance as to what health status the UK will be given and whether any special guarantees will apply (especially for the meat sector).
6 What about the volume of goods?
It will certainly be a challenge – we have extra OVs and CSOs (certification support officers) on standby to cope with the extra volume and are aware that it may be a 24/7 operation in some cases.
7 How can I make it easy?
No simple answer on this one without completely reworking your distribution systems. There will inevitably be delays and teething problems:-
Day 1 for day 2 may simply not be possible in every case
If you can arrange loads so all the dairy is on one lorry, the meat on another etc, that would help but is often impossible
Arrange your shipments in as short a window as possible – it is much quicker to check 6 lorries all loading and going out in a 2 hour window than to have one every 4 hours as there will be a lot of waiting around and poor use of OV time
Checks – it will be impracticable to examine every single product going on every shipment – we will have to rely on spot checks and risk assess the goods going on a case by case basis
Work with us – we will try our very best to come up with a unique solution for every client that works for both parties
Of course if we get a deal or transition period (even if last minute), then we will carry on as normal for the time being!
So please get in touch if you have any further questions….