'Not for EU' Labelling Consultation – GB wide labelling - Are you affected?

The Democratic Union Party (DUP) have agreed to return to power sharing in Northern Ireland following the publication of the ‘Safeguarding the Union’ deal . PDF-2.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk).

This document confirms the UK government’s intention to extend ‘Not for EU’ labelling on a GB-wide basis to assist in the aims of guaranteeing Northern Ireland’s unfettered access to the UK’s internal market.  This means replacing the ‘green lane’ of the Northern Ireland Retail Movement Scheme (NIRMS) within the Windsor Framework with a UK internal market system.

Legislation to confirm ‘Not for EU’ labelling requirements will apply across GB on agrifood products to support this union supply chain and unfettered internal union market The Marking of Retail Goods Regulations 2024 (defra.gov.uk) is being consulted on.  Defra has opened a consultation here Marking of Retail Goods Consultation - Defra - Citizen Space.  This consultation will close on 15 March 2024.

In the “Windsor Framework: a new way forward” the new way to move prepacked retail goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland was called the 'Northern Ireland Retail Movement Scheme' (NIRMS).  NIRMS means that goods can move with reduced certification requirements, benefit from significantly reduced visual inspections and meet UK public health and safety standards via registration and use of the ‘green channel’.

In the “Safeguarding the Union” command paper, the UK government announced the intention to transition to the UK internal market system. This will eliminate any physical checks when goods move within the UK internal market system.

Northern Ireland Retail Movement Scheme (NIRMS)

In this scheme there are different requirements for labelling individual products and at box level in this scheme, as well as displaying signage in retail premises in Northern Ireland.   These requirements were being brought in through 3 phases listed below:

  • Phase 1 (October 2023) - All meat and some dairy products must bear individual labels. In addition, all other products must be labelled at the box level.
  • Phase 2 (October 2024) - In addition to the products in scope in phase 1, all dairy products must bear individual labels. All other products must be labelled at the box level.
  • Phase 3 (July 2025) - In addition to phases 1 and 2, many other products must bear individual labels including composite products, fruit, vegetables, and fish. All other products must be labelled at the box level.

How will products need to be labelled in Great Britain under the new UK Internal Market System?

The proposal that is now being consulted on is that ‘not for EU’ labelling requirements will be introduced in Great Britain (Great Britain refers to the whole of England, Scotland and Wales in combination, but not Northern Ireland) in 2 phases.

As follows:

(a) on and after 1st October 2024, no person may place prepacked meat, prepacked milk or prepacked dairy products on the market in Great Britain unless each single item bears an individual marking with the words “Not for EU” (“an individual “Not for EU” marking”);

(b) on and after 1st July 2025, no person may place any other prepacked retail goods on the market in Great Britain unless each single item bears an individual “Not for EU” marking.  (ie From 1 July 2025 the individual ‘not for EU’ labelling requirement will be expanded to all retail goods in scope of Regulation (EU) 2023/1231(this includes pet food, fruit and vegetables, fish and composite products such as pizza.  Composite products are products that contain both products of plant origin and processed products of animal origin (POAO) for human consumption. Regulation - 2023/1231 - EN - EUR-Lex (europa.eu))

A significant number of goods are exempt from any kind of labelling including  shelf-stable composite products - see Labelling requirements for certain products moving from Great Britain to retail premises in Northern Ireland under the Northern Ireland Retail Movement Scheme - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)  Other exemptions so far listed are anticipated to include: (i) individual goods offered by a catering operator, at factory canteens, by institutional catering, by restaurants and by other similar food service operators for direct consumption on the spot.   (ii) ) individual goods sold loose or by weight on the sales premises at the consumer’s request, including individual goods processed and sold on the sales premises by a retailer for direct consumption by the consumer (iii) Certain small or local business exemptions (TBC) and (iv) prepacked retail goods which are qualifying Northern Ireland goods. 

There will be no box or shelf level labelling requirements of any kind for goods sold in Great Britain

This is a ‘placing on the market requirement’.

Labelling Requirements and Costs

This would involve a rapid turnaround with associated costs for business, particularly for the meat and dairy industry but also the wider sector the following year.   It is likely to involve the need for those food companies who supply both markets for them to divide product lines between those suitable for export to EU and those for the internal market.  There is the potential that investment and market availability may be restricted in the short term.

On the other hand where product is traded internally only, with a main market being Northern Ireland, there are likely to be benefits. However, it may be argued NIRMS already addressed this need.

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