EU Timber Regulation Post-Brexit in the Event of ‘No Deal’

Those trading in timber and timber-based products (including pulp and paper) are already legally required to comply with the EU Timber Regulations designed to prevent products made from illegally harvested materials entering the EU internal market.  The legislation works by classing the organisation first placing the product on the EU market as the Operator, and requiring this organisation to operate a due diligence system to identify any illegality risks and to act to minimise them.  Any organisations that subsequently buy or sell these materials are classed as Traders, with a simple obligation to record purchases and sales.  All records are open to inspection by the regulatory authorities to enable questionable goods to be tracked through the supply chain.

With the UK as part of the EU, and once a pulp or paper product is on the market anywhere in the EU, then sales to or from the UK are only required to comply with the very simple Trader obligations.  However, if the UK leaves the EU with no deal, then both the UK and EU have confirmed that anything coming from anywhere in the EU into the UK will require a full Operator assessment for the UK Regulator; and anything entering the EU from the UK will require a full Operator assessment for the Member State Regulator – potentially a huge new red tape burden.

The UK preferred option remains to stay aligned with the rest of the EU, so that legal harvesting of timber must be proven the first time material is placed on the EU or the UK market, with no additional assessment required for transfer within the single market.   The Commission has made no comment on long-term options, rather considering that this issue that should be resolved as part of a long-term deal, but noting that the UK preferred approach would be difficult without remaining in the single market.

This is not an issue that will stop the movement of goods at a border because compliance is assessed at company level by the regulatory audit; in other words there’s no piece of paper to hand to customs at the border.

Guidance from the UK Regulator suggests that due diligence checks would involve:

  • gathering information on the timber, including its species, quantity, supplier, country of harvest and compliance with applicable legislation
  • assessing the risk of timber being illegal, applying set criteria in the regulations; and
  • Obtaining additional information or taking further steps to verify legality (for example testing or assessment of the supply chain).

Because the same material may be subject to similar checks a number of times, it would seem worth discussing the possibility of sharing information along supply chains as a way to manage obligations.

A reminder that product made from recycled material remains outside the scope of regulations (subject to proof of the recycled status) and that packaging when in use as packaging is also outside scope.

For further information contact Steve Freeman on 07775 696514 or email