There’s a lot of confusion about the new food labelling, and it’s complicated to explain, but the ‘Not for sale in the EU’ marking doesn’t mean that the product does not meet EU standards. It very likely does. It just isn’t registered for sale in the EU.
This goes to the heart of the difference between being ‘aligned‘ with single market standards without being a member of the single market, and being a member of the single market. As a member you can sell your goods anywhere in the single market. As a non-member you can’t, even if the product is the same.
The ‘Not for the EU’ label arises from the Windsor Framework as a way of ensuring that British produce sold in Northern Ireland can’t be sold in the EU. But it doesn’t in itself mean it doesn’t meet EU standards – it almost certainly does, unless there’s been a UK divergence.
Right to diverge
So why not allow it to be sold in the EU and UK if the standard is the same? Because the Frost-Johnson ‘sovereignty first’ deal insisted that UK must have the right to diverge on food standards, even if it didn’t exercise that right.
Why? Partly dogmatism about sovereignty, partly to leave open the possibility of a UK-US trade deal with different standards in the future. Whatever. The point is ‘Not for sale in the EU’ doesn’t mean ‘doesn’t meet EU standards’, just that it isn’t certified to meet them.
OK, so could it mean that it doesn’t meet EU standards? Yes, it could, if the relevant UK standard has changed. They mostly haven’t, and even if they have – or do – sellers selling in both the UK and EU will most likely produce to the higher standard, as it’s cheaper than having two.
OK, so if I can’t be sure, then I won’t buy it. But whatever you buy will satisfy UK standards, whatever they are. The only products legally for sale in the UK do so. The ‘not for sale in the EU’ label is irrelevant to that.
All this has deep roots in the Brexiter delusion, where they said a trade deal would be easy, as the UK and EU standards were already aligned. But alignment isn’t enough to make identical products certified for sale in separate markets.
TL;DR: the ‘Not for sale in the EU’ label doesn’t tell you anything, one way or the other, about whether the product it is on meets EU standards.
This article is reproduced from a twitter thread with permission. Chris will be writing further on this subject in his excellent ‘Brexit & Beyond’ blog.