FOLLOWING BREXIT, changes in food law will affect every farmer, grower and food producer in the UK – and anyone involved in supplying or producing food is being urged to understand the legal implications of Britain leaving the EU.

Reading University's Dr David Jukes explained: “Assuming we leave the EU there will be no end to potential changes in food law. The belief is that Britain can fall back on World Trade Organisation agreements. However, these will not necessarily help British farmers and businesses to trade with EU nations once we no longer share EU laws.”

Dr Jukes predicted that change will not be immediate: “The day we leave, UK law will apply but, in most cases, this will simply be retained EU law until new ones are made. However, some problems will arise immediately. An example would be in hygiene standards for food products. The current veterinary hygiene mark is an oval containing the letters ‘EC’, and it is approved for use by all EU member states. When we leave, we will no longer be legally able to use this and so an alternative UK health mark has been prepared. However, if there is no deal, potentially any EU nation could choose not to recognise our new hygiene mark until we have been audited as a ‘third country’. This could prevent British food producers exporting these products to the EU.”

UK food law currently follows the rules adopted by the EU that are applied to ensure the effective functioning of the internal market. Therefore, he Dr Jukes said the effects of any changes in food law will have to be considered carefully so as not to disrupt trade: “An example of this would be relaxing laws that regulate contaminants in food. Residues on fruit used to make jam for instance. The EU currently has specified residue limits. If the UK were to relax its laws on residues, exports from the UK could be blocked. The reverse might also apply. If the UK were to set a tighter residue limit then it would make it harder for importers and it could block EU products.".

Reading University will be offering online courses on food law beginning in 2020. These courses are available through the Agrifood Training Partnership, and anybody can enrol to better understand how Britain’s exit from the EU will affect food imports and exports in the future.