Seafood sector preparations for the end of the EU Exit Transition Period

September 2, 2020 by No Comments | Category EU exit


The UK has left the EU, and the transition period after Brexit comes to an end on the 31st of December 2020. From that point forward, businesses trading with EU Member States, EFTA countries and several other countries will do so on a ‘3rd country’ basis, which will have documentation and certification implications that we have not been accustomed to for several decades. Negotiations continue with the EU with respect to a trade agreement, but the significance of that mainly relates to tariffs: the new non-tariff trading obligations are likely to largely remain in force.

The Scottish Government worked hard to provide helpful information and guidance to importing and exporting businesses in 2019, and that material remains relevant and applicable to the circumstances we are likely to encounter at the end of 2020. However, new issues have emerged since then, and this update document covers some of these. Work is still ongoing on several issues, and we will brief you on each of these as they are resolved – expect further update communications over the next few weeks and months. Some of the links we provide in this paper will remain active and may be updated – it is worth checking back with them from time to time.

We should note that much of the material we direct you to is UK government information/guidance, but it doesn’t always apply in Scotland due to many policy areas being devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This is why tailored guidance and support for Scottish seafood stakeholders will be required and is in preparation. It is also worth noting that the UK government does not necessarily represent Scotland’s views on some matters, and in some instances the approach taken by the UK government in devolved areas is yet to be agreed by Scottish Ministers.

There will be inevitable overlaps in the information provided in the links referred to in this document. The Scottish Government seeks to ensure that this guidance is up-to-date and accurate. However, requirements may change. You should consider seeking professional advice before making specific preparations. This guidance does not constitute legal or professional advice and we cannot accept liability for actions arising from its use. The Scottish Government is not responsible for the content of pages referenced by external links.

The following sections contain the main topics seafood exporters and importers will need to consider. Click on the relevant embedded hyperlinks.

European Commission Guidance

The EC offers guidance on what traders need to do to prepare for the end of the transition period: guidance.

Guidance on the Marine Scotland website

Marine Scotland produced guidance material on international trade in 2019, preparatory to a potential no-deal Brexit – guidance. We would urge you to visit this website in the first instance, and consider downloading the guidance leaflets and following up the links that would be relevant to your business.

Preparing for Brexit on Scottish Government website

For additional comprehensive guidance from the Scottish Government, please visit this website: preparing for Brexit.

Fishing Vessel Registration and Inspection by LA’s – URGENT

Marine Scotland believes there is now good industry knowledge about the requirement for all vessels intending to put their catch into an export supply chain to be a registered food business. This requires an inspection, which will be undertaken by Local Authority officials. Food Standards Scotland has been leading this initiative, and details can be found here: guidance.

Listed Food Businesses

Although this topic will potentially be covered in some of the other guidance referred to in this paper, please also see: guidance.

UK Transition website

As a general portal to all things related to the end of the transition period, the UK government has launched its Transition website.

The Border Operating Model

Much of the information you will need to trade with EU Member States, whether as an importer or an exporter, is contained within the recently published Border Operating Model. This is an extensive document, and much of it is not relevant to the seafood sector. Nevertheless, some of the generic guidance to importers and exporters is valuable, and there are specific sections related to seafood sector trade. Webinars are available. Importers should note the UK government’s proposal to phase the requirements for imports over the first six months of 2021. In addition, there is a UK government consultation for 2025.

How to import and export goods between Great Britain and the EU from 1 January 2021

HM Revenue and Customs put this guidance material online on the 13th of July.

Export Health Certificates

Seafood sector exporters will be aware of the need for Export Health Certificates after the end of the transition period, and this topic is covered in some of the other guidance referred to in this paper. There is a lot of useful information contained within the following webpages. In addition you can search for available certificates. SG and FSS are proposing FSS leads on EHC provision at a minimum of two key logistics hubs in Scotland, which will operate a ‘groupage’ system to help food business export effectively and efficiently after the EU-exit transition period. More information will shortly be communicated, and will be available through the Brexit section of the Food Standards Scotland website.

Marine and Fisheries Compliance

Effective monitoring and enforcement of marine and fishing laws is vital if we are to protect Scotland’s valuable marine areas and fisheries. It is important that these are protected by detecting breaches of fisheries regulations by monitoring and inspection at sea and in ports, and then reporting as appropriate to the prosecuting authorities, and by providing intelligence on fishing activity in the sea areas around Scotland. Comprehensive guidance on all relevant issues, and particularly Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and Catch Certificates can be found here: guidance.

The Northern Ireland Protocol

The UK government recently published first a ‘command paper’ on the NI border, then the NI Business Guidance, which is intended to outline some of the requirements for the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The guidance includes a section on moving consignments of fish from GB to NI, and for GB vessels landing fish directly into NI. Other aspects of the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol are still subject to the outcome of negotiations. The working assumption is that Export Health Certificates (EHCs) will be required for trade in products of animal origin between GB and NI. Further guidance will be issued in due course.

MMO survey

The Marine Management Organisation has just launched a survey with registered users of the Catch Certificate system. MMO is only going to contact its English registered users, but there is an expectation that Scottish registered users should also get involved in the survey – and we would urge you to do so. The link to the survey is here.

Seafish Guidance

Seafish has produced guidance that will help prepare seafood businesses for the end of the transition period. It focusses on the day-to-day scenarios likely to be encountered. This includes food safety, traceability and trade, but does not cover issues arising from the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

Seafood Scotland Guidance

As Seafood Scotland notes “In light of the imminent departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, it is essential that actions are taken by the Seafood industry to ensure continued success, deal or no deal”. The website contains helpful information and links.

The Short Straits consultation

Scottish seafood exporters suppling live or fresh product to the EU market have been concerned about possible delays in crossing the English Channel, especially at the Short Straits. They may be reassured to learn that Scottish Government pressure has resulted in a proposal to have a prioritisation scheme for live/fresh seafood – albeit only to be activated on a fall-back basis, if vehicles are starting to pile up. There is a consultation on the proposals, which we would urge you to participate in if it is still active when you receive this.

Further Information

Please keep checking back to relevant Scottish Government websites for updates, and of course several more of these update briefings will be widely circulated in due course.

Much of the online guidance we have pointed you towards contains details of who you can contact for further advice, in relation to the specific area or topic you are concerned about.

If you have any general enquiries that you would like to direct to Marine Scotland, Food and Drink Division or Food Standards Scotland, the contact details are:

Food and Drink Division:
Food Standards Scotland:

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