No-deal Brexit could lead to ‘devastating’ lock-out of EU market, Soil Association warns

As it launches a ‘Brexit readiness support service’, UK organic certifier the Soil Association is warning that a no-deal exit from the European Union would bring “maximum uncertainty” for the country’s organic food and farming sector.

Through a support phone line, dedicated email address, web page and online chat system, the team will answer questions and provide businesses with up-to-date information and requirements. The web page will remain live throughout October and the SA plans to run several expert-led webinars.

The readiness service – which the SA says comes at a ‘critical time’ – is available to all organic businesses, not just those certified by Soil Association Certification. The hotline is funded by the Government’s ‘Brexit readiness fund’ which the SA applied for to provide the organic sector with a ‘central point to access information’.

The launch of the service comes with a warning from the certifier that a no-deal exit from the EU would bring ‘maximum uncertainty’ for organic food and farming. Currently, a statement from the SA states, ‘in the event of no-deal, UK organic producers will not be able to export to the EU unless certified by an EU-approved organic control body’.

Any break – whether it is six days or six months – could be “devastating” for many organic businesses, the certifier warns.

It also points out that Soil Association Certification (and other UK certifiers) are ‘unable to officially apply for this status’ until the UK has departed; any break in recognition, it says, would result in organic exports from the UK to effectively become ‘blocked’.

The SA’s associate director of farming, Liz Bowles, comments: “A no-deal Brexit brings maximum uncertainty for organic food and farming, raising critical issues on the ability to trade and export. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, recognition of UK organic certification by the EU is anticipated to cease overnight with a prospect of a prolonged period when organic exports to the EU could become impossible.

“An ongoing lack of clarity and progress from Government, despite the work of many organizations in the sector, means we are still no clearer how long this break in the ability of organic businesses to export will be. Any break – whether it is six days or six months – could be devastating for many organic businesses.”

To contact the Soil Association support service, email [email protected] or call 03334141451. Updated information on organic and Brexit is available at www.soilassociation.org/brexitforbusiness