To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions has he had with his counterpart in the Welsh Government on the maintenance of the EU geographical indication scheme in Wales after the UK leaves the EU.
5 July 2019
UK Government recognises the crucial role that Geographical Indication (GI) products play in protecting the provenance and heritage of some of Wales’ best-loved food and drink products, and the economic benefit they bring to many communities and the UK as a whole.
GIs represent about 25% of UK food and drink exports by value and play an important role as exemplars of our quality produce around the world. In 2018, GIs were worth over £5 billion in export value. Welsh beef and lamb contribute significantly to this value. Defra are currently undertaking research to obtain more robust data on the value of GIs to local economies across the UK and we will be happy to share relevant findings with the Devolved Administrations.
Leaving the EU with a deal remains the Government’s top priority. This has not changed. Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK commits to protecting all EU GIs until a subsequent agreement enters into force. This will help ensure a smooth transition to the future relationship.
We are committed to establishing UK GI schemes that ensure existing GIs such as Welsh Lamb Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Welsh Caerphilly PGI continue to receive protection from imitation and evocation in the UK after EU Exit.
In the event of a ‘no-deal’, the default position is that UK GIs will continue to be protected in the EU by virtue of being on the EU’s various GI registers. The current EU legislation means that EU GI protection is indefinite unless specific grounds for the cancellation of a GI are met. None of the grounds for cancellation relate to a change in status from Member State to Third Country. We therefore consider that under the current rules, the EU should not be able to remove the protection from UK GIs without reason.
Nevertheless, the UK must be prepared for all possible outcomes as we leave the EU. So it is right to advise UK GI holders to be prepared to apply as third country producers for recognition in the EU in the event that the EU does change its rules. This represents sensible contingency planning.
If the EU took steps to remove UK GIs from their registers, the UK Government would provide support and guidance to GI producers on this process as set out in our technical advice on GOV.UK.
I have discussed the GI scheme with Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Environment and Rural Affairs, at the Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) EFRA meetings held on 5 July 2018 and 17 September 2018. The Minister of State also discussed the scheme at the IMG EFRA meeting on 24 June 2019. Defra officials meet regularly with Welsh Government officials to discuss GI policy development.