15 October 2018 by Joshua Doherty

Defra in European talks over Brexit and RDF

Defra has revealed that it has contacted other EU countries to discuss arrangements for waste import and export licences in the event of a no-deal in Brexit negotiations.

The announcement comes within a document published by the Department which is aimed at “maintaining the continuity of waste shipments” in the event of a ‘No-deal Brexit’.

Currently, different areas of EU law require a mandatory authorisation of shipments from a third country to the European Union or vice versa. This allows the country that the waste is going to, to know what it is and where it will end up. In most cases, such licence are not required for intra-Union shipments.


In January 2018, the European Commission said that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, import/export licences issued by the UK would no longer be valid for shipments of waste to the 27 remaining EU countries.

If there is no deal, OECD rules are likely to come into force

However, in the document released on Friday, Defra said that as there is currently no agreement in place, all shipments will need to go through a re-approval process.

“This means current approvals to ship notified waste between the UK and the EU that extend beyond the 29 March 2019 would be subject to a re-approval process to ensure continuity. The same applies to waste shipments transiting the EU,” the department explained.

It added: “There is currently no process set out in the EU Waste Shipment Regulations on how notified shipments that have already been approved by UK and EU competent authorities should be re-approved. Defra is contacting other EU countries to discuss arrangements.”


Meanwhile, the department added that if the UK leaves without a deal, it will still be a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and will remain a party to the Basel Convention.

With regards to waste entering the UK from the EU, Defra say that therefore the UK “would be treated in the same way as any other OECD country, or any country that is party to the Basel Convention, looking to export waste to an EU country.”

Under the European waste regulations, OECD countries wishing to export waste to the EU for disposal must submit a duly reasoned request (DRR) to the relevant EU competent authority, explaining why the country does not have and cannot reasonably acquire the appropriate disposal facilities.

The UK government would need to submit DRRs for any exports to the EU of waste for disposal, before a notification to export could be submitted by a UK exporter to the relevant UK competent authority.


With regards to importing waste, EU states would be prohibited from exporting waste for disposal, or exporting mixed municipal waste for recovery, to the UK under EU waste regulations.

“There would be no changes to the procedure for imports of waste for recycling that are eligible to be shipped under the Green Control procedure,” the department added.

As with all of the warnings the government has released, the introduction reiterated that a scenario in which the UK leaves the EU without agreement remains unlikely given the mutual interests of the UK and the EU in securing a negotiated outcome.

The full Defra document can be read here.


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