Brexit Continues to Challenge UK Food Regulators
After taking a series of economic hits over the past few years, will 2023 be any different for the UK? And why does the UK struggle with food regulation so long after Brexit?
After several quarters of economic stagnation – and a few prime ministers – the House of Commons has taken what it hopes will be the necessary steps to finally resolve this crisis. But critics insist there’s more work to be done.
A quick review of the causes of UK food regulation challenges suggests why the situation has progressed unchecked. But UK regulators have a plan to put an end to its food regulation crisis.
UK food regulation challenges after Brexit
Detractors have hammered regulators for failing to successfully implement the new food regulations since Brexit ripped the country from the EU three years ago. As a result, most UK regulators have been forced to assume greater responsibilities.
The critical economic pressures brought about by the pandemic, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, haven’t helped. But the UK government has prioritized other symptoms of the country’s ailing economy, neglecting food regulation policies.
But regulators need help filling in the growing skills if they’re going to make any real progress. Regulators are still working out a strategy to solve the dearth of qualified personnel in the following areas:
- Professionals to monitor food safety and animal welfare in abattoirs.
- Expert toxicologists to evaluate food risks and chemical safety.
- Experienced economists and lawyers who can help implement the competition law and safeguard consumers.
Additionally, the UK cut itself off from critical research data requiring a staggering number of resources to gather. The regulators no longer enjoy insights from the large volumes of food data the EU once provided.
UK regulators enforcing food regulations after Brexit
Since the UK left the European Union, the country has had to fill the gap previously served by the EU and its institutions, especially regarding regulatory policies. As such, the government has delegated policy implementation to the following regulators:
- Food Standards Agency (FSA). Entrusted with regulating food imports and regulated products.
- Competition and Markets Authority (CMA): The CMA now has new roles in competition enforcement involving roles in the Subsidy Advice Unit and the Internal Market offices.
- Health and Safety Executive (HSE): The HSE is now tasked with running independent chemicals regulatory safety measures.
How post-Brexit regs influence purchasing and R&D
According to an FSA report, the country needs better control to ensure imported food meets the recommended quality standards to avoid potential safety incidents.
It follows that the UK has endured challenging times trying to implement its new food regulation laws post-Brexit. In turn, this has dramatically affected purchasing and R&D activity. However, most of the country’s policies focus on the manufacturing industry, which makes up more than two-thirds of the country’s R&D activity. Consequently, little room is left to implement the newly imposed food regulation laws.
Recommendations for UK food regulation solutions
Following the slow implementation of food regulation policies in the UK after Brexit, the House of Commons recently issued a report detailing “regulating after EU exit.” The 19th report on the 2022-2023 sessions details various actions the government should take:
1. Develop a relevant long-term strategy. After witnessing slow development in implementing long-term regulatory strategies on food regulation policies, the House of Commons has proposed a timeline. Six months from the official release of the report, regulators are expected to develop and share sound long-term strategies with the appropriate policy departments. Furthermore, the report to the committee should be thorough, detailing the policy implementation schedules.
2. Hire skilled personnel. Evidently, UK regulators need help recruiting and retaining skilled labor to perform required regulatory functions. The labor shortage has forced regulators to operate independently, each trying to achieve their own objectives. Alternatively, regulators should work together to identify and leverage common skills. Further, they should work together to develop a long-term strategy for recruiting, training, and hiring skilled recruits.
3. Revisit staffing reductions. After the funding settlements detailed in the 2021 spending review proved insufficient for the food regulations task, authorities proposed staff reductions of up to 40%. However, this strategy’s potential flaw is that the regulatory bodies can’t meet their objectives with such a small staff. In retrospect, the committee expects regulators to provide a detailed report pinpointing the effects of staff cuts on the regulatory structure and policies. To balance the scales, the government expects regulators to design a regulatory model that incorporates some staff reductions.
4. Emphasize resource sharing. Losing access to vital data, resources, and cooperation is a heavy blow to the UK. For example, regulators can no longer share and compare notes with other EU member states, making accessing vital information required to enforce food regulations difficult. Instead, regulators should work collaboratively and establish an information-sharing network to foster cooperation. Moreover, six months from the release of the report, the committee expects regulators to draft an account of their progress in implementing the regulatory cooperation provisions established in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
5. Assess the impact of diverging regulations in the UK, EU, and international arena. After the UK’s exit from the EU, the difference in regulatory policies revealed itself. However, little is known about how these differences affect individual enterprises. Subsequently, it’s vital to critically monitor the regulatory divergence and how it affects food-related businesses in the UK. On that same note, regulators should also formulate a sound international relations strategy promoting the implementation of the new UK food regulations.
UK food regulation challenges have strained relations between brands and regulators while making it increasingly difficult for new players to break into the market. But it’s also created unprecedented opportunities.
While regulators must come together to share data and resources more efficiently, they also must build new ways of influencing the international market and help make compliance less confusing.
With so much confusion, it’s critical that brands stay informed of the latest policy changes. And a single, inclusive source of international regulatory data can help brands stay on top of a changing global marketplace and ahead of emerging risks and market challenges. With a reliable, constantly updated source of regulatory data, brands can break into new markets with certainty.