Following the news that the European Commission has granted the UK a further Brexit extension until 31 January 2020, it is likely that the UK will be subject to the implementation of the Smarter Rules for Safer Foods (SRSF) regulations at the same time as the EU Member States, in relation to plant passports, on 14 December 2019. In the event that the UK exits the EU with a deal, EU law will continue to apply during the transition period.

The SRSF regulations are an amalgamation of EU legislation in relation to animal health, plant health and official controls. Those relating to plant health are EU Plant Health Regulation 2016/2031 and EU Officials Controls Regulation 2017/625. Currently, plants coming into the UK from outside the EU require health certificates but plants originating within the EU do not. The plant passport aims to ensure traceability of where plants originate and that they are pest and disease free.

The most notable change that our industry needs to be aware of is that as from 14 December 2019:

  • plants traded for planting will require a plant passport for their movement within the EU – that includes movement within the UK.
  • records of plant passports issued and received will need to be kept for three years
  • Those trading plants via distance selling contracts e.g. online, over the telephone etc., will be required to pass plant passports down to the final end user e.g. domestic gardeners purchasing for personal use.

Plant passports can be issued by operators who have been inspected by and subsequently authorised to issue plant passports by the Competent Authority.

For England and Wales, the Competent Authority is the Animal and Plant Health Agency while in  Scotland its Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) and in Northern Ireland it is the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). As per Article 85 of the EU Plant Health Regulation 2016/2031, plant passports will have a standardised format that authorised operators must follow.

We are currently awaiting advice from Defra about what the exact nature of the requirements in relation to aquarium and pond plants will be and we will add updates as soon as we receive this advice. In the meantime, we would advise that our industry makes itself aware of the plant passport requirements. Regular updates and further information on the SRSF regulations and plant passport requirements are available via Gov.UK.

Further details on the SRSF regulations can be found here.

The EU Plant Health Regulation 2016/2031 can be found here.

Current advice from Gov.UK (last dated 1 October 2019) on plant passports can be found here.