Since January 1, 2021, trade with the United Kingdom, the third-largest customer for France’s agri-food sector is subject to new rules and regulations. Although customs tariffs have not been re-implemented, both customs paperwork and food- and feed-safety inspections have been put back into place for products crossing the border into the UK.
“Brexit represents a real challenge for all economic stakeholders involved with trade with the U.K.,” Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, declared. He spoke while introducing “United Kingdom: Post-Brexit Opportunities for Our Exports,” a conference held during Export Agro Days, an event organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and its partners, from March 29 to April 2.
While the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union has attracted extensive press coverage over the past few years, the U.K remains a major destination for French agri-food products.
“The United Kingdom is the third largest customer for France’s agri-food sector, representing an essential market for French exports,” the Minister reminded everyone.
“France is, among other things, the U.K.’s first supplier, by value, for wine, as well as for baked goods, including both bread and pastry.”
“An overseas export market”
But since January 1, the terms and conditions for trade have evolved, as Franck Riester pointed out. “The U.K. is now seen as an overseas export market.” Two agreements will define trade relations with the United Kingdom from now on: the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, which went into effect on February 1, 2020; and the December 2020 Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), which was signed on December 30, 2020, after months of intense negotiations.
“This is an ambitious trade agreement because it enables us to temper Brexit’s impact on trade flows and customs tariffs – by avoiding the implementation of customs tariffs – and it plans for innovative level playing field tools aimed at preserving our market’s relative competitiveness,”
Héloïse Pestel, agricultural trade advisor at the French embassy in London, explains. Nonetheless, despite the trade agreement, conditions about rules of origin, customs formalities, and safety certification have changed since the United Kingdom is no longer a member of the Common Market or the European Union Customs Union.
The fact is that reestablishing a border has had several consequences: the return of customs formalities, meaning customs declarations for both imports and exports, and the need for food- and feed-safety inspection certificates for agri-food products.
Roll-out for these inspections is taking place in stages, depending on the products in question. Most animal-origin products, for example, will not require inspection certification until October 1, 2021, and border controls will not be re-implemented until January 1, 2022.
“Everyone involved needs to take advantage of those extensions to ready themselves as best they can,” Héloïse Pestel concludes.
More details: Team France Export has created “Easy Brexit” as a solution to accompany and assist French exporting businesses to secure their business deals during this Brexit 2021 transitional period, as well as a free information platform that is being updated daily, “L’Actu Live Brexit.”
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