There is coverage today in the Express following news that the EU has begun infraction proceedings against the UK for its decision to impose stricter plant health regulations in order to prevent plant disease spreading to the UK.
The EU infraction cites that the UK has “unjustifiably stricter” rules to protect against plant pests including Xyella fastidiosa and plane canker.
Xyella and plane canker are plant diseases that can have a devastating effect on trees and shrubs. They are not currently found in the UK but are present in other European countries including France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. In April 2020 Defra introduced national measures imposing stringent import requirements to protect the UK from Xylella and plane canker.
The European Commission reviewed the UK’s measures, and in June ordered that they be revoked. The UK disagreed with the decision and the new biosecurity measures remain in place.
A Defra spokesperson said:
We are committed to preventing devastating plant diseases from spreading to this country and currently have some of the strongest biosecurity measures in Europe.
The biosecurity threat regarding Xylella and plane canker has not changed. We will continue to undertake intensive inspections of plants which are imported to the UK and encourage industry to employ strict risk management practices.
The biosecurity threat from Xylella and plane canker remains, and therefore the reason for introducing national measures has not changed. We will keep the need for any further actions under review in light of the ongoing risk situation, including developments in the EU and the results of our own surveillance.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency will continue to carry out intensive inspections of imported plants, taking account of risk factors such as origin, presence of insect vectors, and suspect symptoms.
Further details about our approach to plant health can be found here: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/covid-19-plant-health/