News article

Brexit: Exporting plants and plant products to the EU

5 February 2020


Exporters of plants and plant products to the EU should prepare for new requirements

The UK will become a third country and will need to meet EU third country import requirements to export regulated plants and plant products to the EU from 1 January 2021.

Export rules and processes
For exports to the EU, third-country rules will apply on all:

The process for sending regulated plants and plant products to the EU will be the same as the current process for sending them to third countries. When you export regulated plants and plant products to third countries, you need to:

  • check whether a phytosanitary certificate (PC) is required by contacting the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) or a plant health inspector in the destination country
  • apply for a PC from DAERA before export
  • check if your plants require laboratory testing of samples to ensure they are free from pests and diseases or inspections during the growing season - contact your local DAERA Plant Health Inspector to find out if your plants need these tests before exporting

Regulated plant and plant products exports to the EU from the UK may be subject to checks at the EU border.

Steps to take now to prepare for EU Exit
To prepare for EU exit you need to:

  • check with DAERA to find out if consignments need a PC 
  • use the export plants, seeds, bulbs and wood guidance on EU plant health import requirements to help you prepare your export correctly
  • contact your local DAERA Plant Health Inspector for advice

Steps to take now to prepare for 1 January 2021

To prepare for 1 January 2021 you need to:

  • check with the relevant UK plant health authority to find out if consignments need a PC or read the Export Requirements (PDF, 395KB, 16 pages)
  • use the export plants, seeds, bulbs and wood guidance on EU plant health import requirements to help you prepare your export correctly
  • contact your local UK plant health inspector for advice

Prepare for Smarter Rules for Safer Food regulations

New EU regulations about importing plants and plant products from third countries come into force under the Smarter Rules for Safer Food (SRSF) package on 14 December 2019. This means that all relevant plants and plant products will need a phytosanitary certificate upon entry to the EU unless exempted.

Exempted food includes processed food or food products, for example prepared salads, sandwiches and stir-fry mixes.

The list of relevant plants and plant products which need a phytosanitary certificate for export to the EU will significantly increase under SRSF.

The EU SRSF plant health import requirements (PDF, 273KB) guide lists all plants and plant products originating in the UK that will require a phytosanitary certificate for export to the EU. Exporters should check with the relevant plant health authority in the importing country to find out what controls will apply when exporting plants and plant products.

Plant Passports and Pest Free Areas

Some plants and plant products must meet specific requirements to enter ‘protected zones’ within EU countries.

EU Protected Zones (PZs) allow EU member states to place controls on imports and movements between member states. This prevents the introduction or spread of plant pests and diseases which are present elsewhere in the EU but absent from the Protected Zone.

Changes to Protected Zones from 1 January 2021

The UK cannot designate all or parts of the UK as an EU Protected Zones from 1 January 2021.

The UK will replace the biosecurity protections provided by EU Protected Zones by creating 2 new designations.

Quarantine pest designation

This will designate the existing plant pests and diseases covered by Protected Zone arrangements as ‘quarantine pests’. Quarantine pests are plant pests and diseases which are not established and which would be damaging if introduced, where they are absent from the whole of the UK.

Quarantine pests are prohibited from entering the UK and are subject to statutory control if found on plants or plants products. The requirements to prevent the entry of these pests will remain the same from 1 January 2021.

Pest Free Areas (PFAs) designations

This will designate PFAs in line with international standards for those pests and diseases which are absent from part of the UK, but not the whole of the UK. PFAs are declared in line with recognised international standards and requirements. They can be applied to movements of plants and plant products into PFAs.

Both EU PZs and PFAs allow countries to control movements of plants and plant products which may carry plant pests and diseases, where the whole country or an area within the country are free from those pests or diseases. Moving from PZs to quarantine pests and PFAs will not change the requirements for goods moving within the UK.

There will be no new import or movement restrictions from the replacement of certain PZs with requirements for quarantine pests. These requirements are already in place now under the PZ system. The requirements for importing into and moving within PFAs will be the same as they currently are for the equivalent PZs.

If you are moving plants and plant products into or within UK PZs currently, you need to use an EU plant passport. You will need to use a UK plant passport if you’re moving the relevant plants and plant products into or within UK PFAs from 1 January 2021.

How to move goods into or within a UK Pest Free Area from 1 January 2021

Plants and plant products currently covered by EU plant passports for movements within the UK will need to be moved with a UK plant passport. When moving controlled plants in the UK, you’ll need to:

  • register with the relevant UK plant health authority
  • be authorised to issue plant passports
  • replace references to ‘EU’ with ‘GB’ when issuing plant passports

If you are an existing user of EU plant passports, you do not need to reissue a UK passport but you will need to change the title of your passport from ‘EU’ to ‘GB’.

The ‘GB’ code applies to the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland. This is because ‘GB’ is the internationally recognised code for the UK. Businesses in Scotland and Northern Ireland can choose to add ‘GB – S’ or ‘GB – NI’ to their plant passports.

If you’re providing a UK plant passport to move restricted plants into a UK PFA, you must include ‘PFA’ on the passport, rather than ‘ZP’ followed by the code for that PFA. Codes for PFAs will be the same as the codes for the PZs that they are replacing. For example, the code for ‘Ips Cembrae’ is (a)9.

Find details on Pest Free Areas and what plants must have passports (PDF, 271KB) to understand what to do from 1 January 2021.

Read Issuing plant passports to trade plants in the EU to understand how to apply for a UK plant passport.

Movement of wood packaging material
Wood packaging material (WPM) moving between the UK and the rest of the EU can currently move freely without checks or controls.

WPM includes:

  • pallets
  • crates
  • boxes
  • cable drums
  • spools
  • dunnage

All WPM moving between the UK and the EU must meet ISPM15 international standards by undergoing heat treatment and marking (PDF, 758K). All WPM may be subject to official checks either upon or after entry to the EU.

Checks on WPM will continue to be carried out in the UK on a risk-targeted basis only. The plant health risk from WPM imported from the EU is not expected to change from 1 January 2021.

Trade agreements

There will be no implementation period from 1 January 2021.

Any new agreements will replicate existing EU agreements as far as possible. Where replacement trade agreements are not agreed, trade would take place on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms with that country. Details of each agreement will be shared with parliament and the public when they have been agreed.

Further information
You can find information on exporting plants and plant products to the EU in a no-deal scenario from GOV.UK and local guidance on plant exporting from DAERA.