Sandy’s Garden ... Good or Bad Friday?

On Friday, January 31 2020 – this coming Friday – the United Kingdom will formally leave the European Union (EU).

Monday, 27th January 2020, 9:38 am

Those people who are in favour of this move will, no doubt, be planning to watch live television coverage … on BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4 … of the countdown clock projected on the walls of 10 Downing Street and of the scenes of public rejoicing that we are quitting this bureaucratic nightmare waste of our money. Those people against it … and yes, let’s not totally ignore the 48% of British electors who cast votes in the EU Referendum … will be less enthusiastic and may well decide to join me in preferring to watch an old film. (This is my personal view and does not represent the view of the editors or publishers.)

So, what will be different on February 1? Nothing at all, for we shall have entered the ‘transition period’ … the remainder of 2020… during which life will go on as before while efforts are made to secure deals on a huge variety of matters, including matters which are of interest to gardeners and, more particularly, to horticultural traders. Don’t be fooled by the voices which will almost certainly assert that the ‘Remainers’ were gloom-and-doom peddlers whose pessimism was entirely misplaced. The day of reckoning is January 1, 2021 when we intend to leave the EU in reality rather than on paper. And what might that mean?

I shall forsake any desire to express my own views but turn instead to the opinion of an expert, James Clark, who is Director of Policy and Communications at the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA). He said: “The hard work on delivering a viable and realistic trade deal with the EU in the short transition period until the end of 2020, will be challenging. With a significant amount of horticultural imports from EU countries and with the industry exporting a range of British grown products to other markets, it is crucial that there is an agreement to deliver free and frictionless trade.” In short, we really do need a trade deal.

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

If, gentle reader, you regard the HTA as a conservative … with a small ‘c’ … organisation which resists major changes, let us look at what the UK Government has to say. “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 if there’s a no-deal Brexit.” The UK “will have to trade with that country under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.” … “For exports to the EU third-country rules will apply on all plants for planting; wood, wood products or bark; and wood packaging material.” The list of what importers and exporters of such goods must do is lengthy. They will need a UK EORI number … an Economic Operators Registration and Identification number. They will require to check they are using the correct codes to be ready to pay the right tariffs. Importers will need to check their eligibility to use Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSPs) to let them make customs declarations after importation to try to ensure free flow of goods over the border; and exporters must check they are using the right commodity codes to avoid problems when their goods arrive in the EU and ensure that they are aware of required certification and pre-notification processes such as plant health controls and chemical regulations. Importers and exporters alike will have to be aware of any and all changes in EU regulations; and they must decide if it will be easier to use a customs agent. In short, we really do need a trade deal.

Saturday, February 1, 2020 should be the same as Friday, January 31, 2020. But will Friday, January 1, 2021 be the same as Thursday, December 31, 2020? Who knows?