On 27 October 2020, the House of Lords is due to debate the draft Timber and Timber Products and FLEGT (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. These regulations were laid under the draft affirmative procedure. This means they must be approved by both Houses before they can be brought into force.
The Timber and Timber Products and FLEGT (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 would amend the Timber and Timber Products and FLEGT (EU Exit) Regulations 2018. The purpose of the amendments is to implement the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
Why are these regulations being introduced?
The EU has certain regulations that govern the sale of timber. The aim of these regulations is to reduce illegal logging.
The EU’s timber regulations continue to apply to the UK during the transition period. Under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (as amended) they will be retained as part of UK domestic law at the end of the transition period, on 31 December 2020.
In 2018, Parliament passed the Timber and Timber Products and FLEGT (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 (‘the 2018 regulations’). These regulations made minor changes to the retained EU law, which will take effect after 31 December 2020, to ensure it continues to be operable after the end of the transition period. The changes included amending references to the EU, EU institutions and EU administrative processes to UK equivalents and updating legal references to refer to relevant UK legislation.
Since the 2018 regulations were passed, the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland has been agreed. This states that certain provisions of EU law will continue to apply in Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period. The EU’s timber regulations are among those that will continue to apply in Northern Ireland.
The Timber and Timber Products and FLEGT (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (‘the 2020 regulations’) would amend the 2018 regulations. The 2020 regulations would provide that the EU regulations would continue to apply in Northern Ireland after 31 December 2020, and the 2018 regulations (as amended) would take effect for England, Scotland and Wales at the end of the transition period.
What does the current law on timber do?
The EU timber regulation (Regulation (EU) No. 995/2010) prohibits the placing on the market of illegally harvested timber or products derived from such timber. It also sets out the obligations of people who place timber and timber products on the internal market and the obligations of people who trade it within the internal market.
Council Regulation (EC) No. 2173/2005 establishes the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licensing scheme for imports of timber into the European Community. This regulation prohibits imports of particular timber products from certain countries unless they are covered by a licence. The regulation provides for agreements between two states or regional organisations that implement a FLEGT licensing scheme. These are known as ‘voluntary partnership agreements’.
There are a number of other EU regulations concerning timber which apply to the UK. In addition, the UK has passed further implementing regulations.
These regulations will be retained in UK law after the end of the transition period. The 2018 regulations made minor changes to the EU regulations to ensure they continue to be operable after the end of the transition period.
What would the Timber and Timber Products and FLEGT (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 do?
The 2020 regulations would amend the 2018 regulations. The 2020 regulations would provide that the EU regulations would continue to apply in Northern Ireland after 31 December 2020, and the 2018 regulations (as amended) would take effect for England, Scotland and Wales.
In some instances, the 2020 regulations would retain references to the UK (including Northern Ireland) in the 2018 regulations. Reference to the UK has been retained in the provisions regarding the FLEGT licensing scheme voluntary partnership agreements, because these are between the UK and another state or regional entity.
The EU timber regulation sets out the instances in which those placing timber on the EU ‘internal market’ for the first time have to exercise due diligence to ensure that it was not illegally harvested. The 2018 regulations changed references to the ‘internal market’ to the UK. The explanatory memorandum to the 2020 regulations states that the definition of the internal market has been retained as the UK “in order to ensure unfettered market access between Northern Ireland and [Great Britain], through the avoidance of new checks”.
The 2020 regulations also retain references to the UK in provisions regarding monitoring organisations. Businesses must apply for recognition as a monitoring organisation. In order that businesses established in Northern Ireland are able to apply, references are retained to the UK. In addition, where the regulations provide for reporting, references to the UK have been retained.
- Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, ‘Trading timber: imports and exports from 1 January 2021’, 23 October 2020
Cover image by Aleksandar Radovanovic.