Post-Brexit protection for Geographical Indication

British products with Geographical Indication (GI) status may still get EU protection from imitation after the UK leaves the EU. 

A Horizon report, examining the impact Brexit may have on the industry in terms of products of GI and analysing how leaving the EU will impact on the UK’s ability to designate foodstuffs under the three existing EU GI schemes, believes that the protection will remain in place.

Under the GI systems, a named food or drink originating either from the EU or from outside the EU, once registered at European level, will be given legal protection against imitation throughout the EU.

Any individual food producer or group of food producers can apply for EU protected food names, but it can take up to four years for the name to be legally protected. However, protection goes on indefinitely once it has been granted. Currently, the UK has 61 registered Geographical Indication products and 17 applications in progress, with the majority of these registrations relating to the meat and cheese sectors.

Producers in the EU send an application to its national authority, whereas countries outside the EU would send it directly to the European Commission. However, non-EU products must already be protected in their country of origin – which means the UK would need to set up its own national approval scheme.

Kathy Roussel, head of the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board’s Brussels Office and co-author of the Horizon report, explained the benefit of Geographical Indication: “Defra recognises the benefits of protecting traditional and geographical food products and has confirmed that this protection will remain while the UK is a member of the EU. A team is also in place to look at how best to protect these products post-Brexit.

“When the UK leaves the EU, registered protected food names should be able to benefit from EU protection against imitation, provided there is a reciprocal agreement between the UK and the EU.

“It will also no longer be possible for UK protected food names to be promoted in the EU or abroad, with the financial support of the EU. However, UK agricultural producers might still see some potential in using EU protected food names as a valuable marketing tool to differentiate their products on EU and international markets to improve their competitiveness and profitability.”

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