Information about Brexit
The EU is ready to sign the withdrawal agreement made with the government of the UK. However, in its votes on 15 and 29 January 2019, the UK House of Commons voted against the withdrawal agreement.
For the EU, the withdrawal agreement is the best attainable compromise and the only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the Union. The EU is not willing to open the agreement up for negotiations. The next course of action depends on the internal politics and objectives of the UK. There are several possible scenarios. The UK must clarify how it wishes to proceed with the matter. After this, the EU will take its stance on any proposals made by the UK.
On 23 June 2016, the UK held a referendum on the country’s EU membership. A total of 51.9 per cent of voters voted in favour of leaving the EU. The UK submitted its withdrawal notification to the EU on 29 March 2017. This marked the beginning of a two-year period of negotiations on the terms of withdrawal.
The negotiations between the Commission and the UK government concerning the withdrawal agreement were concluded in November 2018. The purpose of the withdrawal agreement is to ensure the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU.
The withdrawal agreement does not lay down provisions on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. Negotiations concerning the relationship can only begin once the UK has withdrawn from the EU. The elements of the future EU-UK relationship have been negotiated on in a joint political declaration.
If the withdrawal agreement is not ratified by 12 April 2019 and the deadline for the negotiations is not extended, the withdrawal will happen without an agreement.
In Finland, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is being dealt with at different Ministries in accordance with their respective administrative branches. The Prime Minister’s Office is responsible for coordinating Finland’s positions.
Brexit and the administrative branch of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Finland’s primary goal concerning Brexit is to ensure that the UK withdraws from the EU in an orderly manner and to secure Finland’s interests as an EU Member State. This means, for example, that the unity of the EU and its well-functioning single market will not be put at stake.
Effects of a possible no-deal Brexit
A no-deal Brexit will not require changes to the legislation falling under the administrative branch of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The UK becoming a third country is bound to EU legislation through references, and the European Commission will make the necessary changes to the country lists in the legislation depending on what position the UK will have. The Commission will also make changes to the data management systems used for trade. Following a no-deal Brexit, the UK and its data will be removed from the TRACES (Trade Control and Expert System) and RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) systems, among others. The Commission has issued several notifications concerning the effects of Brexit on different areas falling under the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Common terms and conditions are in place for imports from third countries at the EU level. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, these will apply to imports from the UK. In cases where there are several classifications of third countries, the Commission will decide on how to classify the UK. The Commission is preparing 15 enforcement statutes concerning live animals, products of animal origin and plants including hay and straw. These are set to be brought for a vote at the meeting of the permanent commission dealing with plants, animals, foodstuffs and animal feed in February 2019.
In the case of a no-deal Brexit, the requirements for imports will be set by the UK.
The Finnish Food Authority and Finnish Customs provide advice to operators concerning imports and exports. More detailed information is available in the Imports and Exports section of the Finnish Food Authority’s website. The Finnish Customs website also has a Brexit section with more detailed information. The UK government website has information on the impact of a no-deal Brexit on imports and exports.
The Finnish Food Authority monitors the import of plants, plant products, live animals and foodstuffs of animal origin. Finnish Customs is in charge of monitoring the import of foodstuffs of non-animal origin (such as vegetables, fruits, beverages, sweets, biscuits).
Live animals, incl. pets
Following Brexit, imports of live animals from the UK will become third country imports. However, live animals are only rarely imported from the UK to Finland. Imports of live animals from the UK to Finland primarily concern poultry chicks and livestock semen. These imports will continue to take place via Helsinki Airport. The airport has a veterinary border control point approved for the imports of these species.
The EU Pet Passport will no longer be valid in the UK, nor can it be used when bringing pets from the UK into EU Member States. The conditions for bringing pets from the UK will depend on the category of third country under which the UK is “listed”, if any, by the Commission. According to the information currently available, the Commission is not planning to “list” the UK, which would mean that the UK would be placed into the same rabies risk category as India, for example. This, in turn, would mean that dogs, cats and ferrets to be brought from the UK into the EU in April would have already had to be tested for rabies antibodies at the beginning of January (at least three months before the travel date). People in Finland must therefore also be prepared for situations in which dogs, for instance, arrive at Helsinki Airport after the withdrawal date without fulfilling the import requirements.
When it comes to taking pets to the UK, it is possible that the UK will reinstate the six-month quarantine period, for example.
Foodstuffs and other products of animal origin
Common terms and conditions are in place for imports from third countries at the EU level. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, these will apply to imports from the UK. In cases where there are several classifications of third countries, the Commission will decide on how to classify the UK. The majority of UK products arrive in Finland via another EU Member State, which is responsible for veterinary border control. This means that the number of border checks in Finland is not expected to increase significantly.
Foodstuffs of non-animal origin
The UK will become a third country, which means that all goods moving between the UK and EU Member States will require customs clearance. Importers and exporters are responsible for declaring their goods. The border between EU Member States and the UK will be subject to the customs rules and tariffs for third countries, which include, for instance inspections and monitoring under the EU customs regulations as well as health and biological prevention regulations. Inspections carried out at the border would cause significant delays in road traffic, for instance, and lead to difficulties at ports.
Plants and plant products
Plants and plant products imported from the UK will require a phytosanitary certificate, as is the case with plants and plant products imported from other third countries. For exports, the UK will require a phytosanitary certificate for those plants and plant products for which a Plant Passport is used in the EU.
Wood and timber products
In the case of a no-deal Brexit, the requirements for imports will be set by the UK. The EU legislation already places a heat treatment requirement on wood and timber products exported to the UK, as there are areas in the UK that are protected against pests that occur in Finland. Timber and wood products exported to the UK will be certified with a phytosanitary certificate granted by the Finnish Food Authority.
Seed crops and the EU species list
It will no longer be permitted to import seeds from the UK to the EU market. This is due to the fact that the UK and the EU have not signed an agreement confirming that the seed system in the UK is equivalent to that of the EU, which is a requirement for imports from third countries.
Those species that are listed in the EU’s joint plant species list only by the UK and/or that are maintained only in the UK will be removed from the EU market. The marketing of such species will be able to continue only if the species are registered in the plant species list in an EU Member State. Listing the species also requires that it is maintained in that country as well. Operators are responsible for the registration.
Common terms and conditions are in place for imports from third countries at the EU level. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, these will apply to imports from the UK.
Under Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003 relating to fertilisers, the “Manufacturer” means the natural or legal person responsible for placing a fertiliser on the EU market. The concept also applies to importers. Under the regulation, a manufacturer of fertiliser products must be established in an EU Member State and is responsible for the conformity of the “EC fertiliser” with the provisions of the regulation. After the UK’s withdrawal date, manufacturers established in the UK will no longer be considered manufacturers established in an EU Member State. The import of “EC fertilisers” from the UK will still, however, be possible after the withdrawal date. In this case, a manufacturer established in an EU Member State, under which category distributors have also been placed prior to the withdrawal date, must comply with the requirements for manufacturers as referred to in the above-mentioned regulation.
For imports of fertilisers other than “EC fertilisers”, the Finnish national-level fertiliser legislation shall apply. For exports of fertilisers other than “EC fertilisers” to the UK, the UK’s national-level fertiliser legislation shall apply.
Plant protection products
Common terms and conditions are in place for imports from third countries at the EU level. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, these will apply to imports from the UK. Only those plant protection products that have been approved by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (TUKES) may be sold and used in Finland.
The withdrawal of the UK will have a significant impact on the approval of plant protection products and on risk assessment work used to set maximum residue levels. When it comes to approving plant protection products and assessing maximum residue levels, the EU Member States are responsible for a great deal of risk assessment work, and an enormous number of assessments have been carried out by the UK. After the withdrawal, the UK will no longer be able to carry out assessments as a Member State. The tasks previously carried out by the UK have been divided or will be divided among the EU Member States before the withdrawal date. This means that the withdrawal of the UK will require additional resources from all Member States in order to carry out these tasks.
Veterinary medicinal products, incl. veterinary vaccines
The holder of marketing authorisation for medicinal products must be established in an EU Member State or an EEA country. In cooperation with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and pharmaceutical industry operators, the Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea) has mapped out those products whose marketing authorisation holder is established in the UK. The majority of pharmaceutical companies have already transferred their marketing authorisations or activities to an EU or EEA country to make sure their operations can continue normally after the withdrawal date. The Finnish Medicines Agency has issued guidelines to marketing authorisation holders and other organisations on how take the necessary action to prevent supply failures. The Finnish Medicines Agency has established a Brexit supply group in charge of monitoring the situation. Situation updates will be provided, and cooperation with other actors in the pharmaceutical industry will continue in order to ensure there are no interruptions in the availability of medicines. Marketing authorisation holder must provide notification of possible supply failures two months before the start of the supply failures. At present, we are not aware of any supply issues to be anticipated when it comes to veterinary medicines. In the event of supply issues concerning veterinary medicines, these can be rectified through special permit procedures or exemption procedures,
Practicing the profession of veterinarian
In Finland, the profession of veterinarian can be practiced only by an individual who has been authorised to practice as a veterinarian in Finland or who has been granted a temporary right to practice the profession. The authorisation of veterinarians is the responsibility of the Finnish Food Authority. The Ministry of Education and Culture has prepared recommendations on the recognition of professional qualifications in the event of a no-deal withdrawal. These recommendations will be provided to the Finnish Food Authority. Based on the recommendations, the Finnish Food Authority will issue instructions on the recognition of degrees and the authorisation of veterinarians.