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Important National Measures Update

Defra have been informed that there is some confusion within the trade regarding the position of national measures introduced in the transition period and their compliance with EU regulations.

We wanted to confirm that Defra measures have been introduced in accordance with legal provisions provided for in the EU Plant Health Regulation and are fully in force in England with equivalent legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland expected in the near future.

The EU Plant Health Regulation allows member states, as well as the UK under transition period arrangements, to take additional temporary national measures against pests which are absent or not widely distributed in the EU. The UK has already introduced a number of national measures (e.g. against the potato pest Epitrix, the import of Swiss vehicles and machinery and potatoes from Poland).  Xylella fastidiosa represents a substantial risk to the UK and there is ongoing uncertainty about the disease situation in the EU, with further findings being reported. Evidence from the European Food Safety Authority also highlights that infected plants may not show symptoms for long periods, making it more challenging to confirm that plants are disease-free before they are moved.

In line with the process set out in the EU Plant Health Regulation, there will be consideration of whether new EU-wide requirements for the pests concerned should now be introduced.  This review has not yet taken place.

We are aware of recent correspondence from the European Commission and would like to provide some clarity regarding the status of the regulations and documentation which must accompany plants from the EU which are subject to the regulations.

 The important points to note for businesses are:

  • The Defra regulations have been in force since 21 April 2020.
  • For plant movements into England from the EU, please check with your supplier that they are approved to meet the prescribed requirements and confirm with them that their details have been supplied to Defra by the relevant competent authority in the EU member state concerned. 
  • For movements into England from the EU of the plant species covered by the regulations, these must be accompanied by an official statement confirming that the prescribed requirements have been met.  
  • While the format of this official statement is not prescribed in the regulations, the expectation is that EU competent authorities will choose to use the same documentation as for EU plant passports. Information on EU plant passports is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/issuing-plant-passports-to-trade-plants-in-the-eu
  • In such cases, the document will need to verify that the national regulations have been complied with, through a reference to the relevant EPPO pest code.
  • If Defra becomes aware of alternative arrangements proposed by EU competent authorities for providing the official statement, these will be publicised.
  • Please ensure that the documentation you receive clearly indicates that the national requirements have been met, as described above.

Please note that the Defra regulations are now in force and any consignments of regulated plants not meeting the requirements of the regulations will be treated as non-compliant and will be subject to enforcement action, which may include re-export or destruction. We recognise the challenges that your sectors and the individual businesses your organisations represent are facing at the current time. Therefore, we reflected carefully on the timing of the introduction of these regulations, but proceeded for the following reasons. First, these changes have been supported by the Plant Health Advisory Forum and Tree Health Policy Group and were also welcomed in recent responses to an updated Pest Risk Analysis on the threat posed by Xylella fastidiosa. Second, the changes have been identified as priorities for improving the UK’s plant biosecurity, in response to known threats, thereby protecting UK business, society and the environment in the short term, as well as in the future. They have been supported by stakeholder groups, to protect relevant sectors from the threats concerned and ensure a level playing field within the industry. As such it was concluded that it remained important to introduce these enhanced protections, to deliver the benefits identified (ie maintaining the UK’s pest status for the organisms concerned) despite the challenging circumstances we are all faced with at present, as a result of Covid-19.