EU Exit: Timber traders urged to prepare for change ahead of 1 January 2021

News article

Processes and checks when trading timber after the EU Exit transition period

Businesses trading timber between Great Britain and Northern Ireland are being urged by the UK Government to take action to ensure they are prepared for the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

Following the transition period, NI will remain subject to the European Timber Regulations while GB (England, Scotland and Wales) will have its own Timber Regulations.

The government has confirmed:  

  • Due diligence checks will take place on timber flowing from GB to NI.
  • Due diligence checks will take place on timber flowing from the EU to GB and GB to EU.
  • No new due diligence checks will take place on timber flowing from NI to GB.
  • No new due diligence checks will take place on timber flowing from the EU to NI.

There will be no changes to the current process for businesses importing from outside of the EU and UK producers first placing timber on the internal market they will still need to carry out due diligence as before.  

To comply with their obligations, timber traders will be required to tell the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS): 

  • who they bought the timber from
  • who they sold it to (regardless of species, product or country of origin), through evidence such as an invoice

Both traders and operators (importers) will be required to keep records for five years.

In the same way, as they do now, operators are required to exercise due diligence to ensure that timber and timber products have not been illegally harvested. 
The changes will be relevant to a range of businesses who use timber, including importers and operators, exporters, those working in the construction industry, furniture manufacturers, paper and pulp manufacturers, and the forestry industry.  
There will be no change to the way timber due diligence requirements are enforced. However, failure to comply with the timber regulations and enforcement ranges from warning letters, through to court cases, to an unlimited fine and up to two years in prison.     
Importers of timber from third countries already have to carry out due diligence, except if they are importing from a country which has an operational Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) in place and that import is covered by a FLEGT licence.  

From 1 January 2021, the European Timber Regulation (EUTR) and FLEGT will become UK domestic legislation as the UK Timber Regulations and FLEGT. The requirements under the UK Regulations remain the same as under EUTR.

The OPSS will continue to enforce the regulations in both NI and GB and will work with businesses to support them to meet the requirements of the regulations.

Free guidance and tools are available on the OPSS website.

For more information, see Trading timber: imports and exports from 1 January 2021.
Support for traders
The new free-to-use Trader Support Service will provide support and guidance to businesses moving goods under the Northern Ireland Protocol. Businesses who sign up to the Trader Support Service will be guided through the new processes under the Northern Ireland Protocol and can also use it to complete digital declarations.

First published: 23 October 2020