Food for Thought - Brexit: the impact on food law

08 April 2020

As of the 31 January 2020, the UK ceased membership of the European Union (EU) and as such, Brexit has now taken affect.What impact will Brexit have on food law within the UK?

The current position

Although Brexit has now occurred, very little has changed in relation to food law. The UK now finds itself in a transition period until the end of December 2020. The UK is still bound by EU rules and remains an active member of the single market and customs union, while the UK and EU negotiate on what their new relationship will be once this transition period has ended.

Currently, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) regulates food law in the UK with the EU Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) acting in support. This arrangement will continue throughout the transition period and the EU regulations will still apply. This means very little change is likely to occur in the short term. However, as of the 1 January 2021 the UK will be fully removed from the EU and as a result, new legislation and regulators are likely to be introduced to implement the current principles within the EU regulations.

Likely changes

At present, it is difficult to predict the changes that may occur to food law in the UK after the transition period ends; any changes will depend on the outcome of UK’s negotiations with the EU. That being said, the FSA have published their view on the likely impact Brexit will have on food law after the transition period ends. It is likely that the FSA will adopt the functions of the EU Commission and EFSA and EU food law regulations will need to be adopted into the UK’s domestic law. The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 provides the power to make corrections to any retained EU law and make them enforceable under domestic law. However, the UK is not obliged to implement all EU law into domestic law meaning that the current food law could be quite different to that which is in place from the 1 January 2021 onwards.

The impact

Any changes actualized after the end of the transition period will impact on all UK food and feed businesses, local authority food law enforcement officers, consumers and other stakeholders. That being said the FSA predict the impact will be minimal as the majority of EU food law is expected to be implemented into domestic law.

Next steps

Whatever changes are imminent to food law in the UK make sure you are prepared for them by keeping up to date with any developments during the transition period. 

This article is from the spring 2020 issue of Food for Thought, our newsletter for those working within the food and drink industries. If you require specific advice on how to prepare for potential changes to food law please contact Julie Gowland or a member of Birketts' Regulatory and Corporate Defence team. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at April 2020.