Amid the confusion of Brexit, some aspects of the UK’s future trading relationship with Europe and the rest of the world are becoming clearer. Global Traceability explains what the new UK Timber Regulation will mean for UK businesses.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have missed his “do or die” deadline for leaving the European Union on the 31st of October, but a “UK Timber Regulation” is being set up to align with the “EU Timber Regulation” once Brexit does eventually occur.

At the UK Construction Week exhibition in October, the UK Timber Trade Federation (TTF) and the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) confirmed that all timber imports from the EU, whether the timber originates in the EU or not, will be subject to UK Timber Regulation due diligence. 

Xiao Ma, the TTF’s head of sustainability, pointed out that barely 12% of UK timber importers are sourced from outside the EU and therefore subject to EUTR due diligence.

“That means that a lot more UK timber importers after Brexit will have to undertake due diligence, many of them for the first time,” she said.

As it stands, under the EUTR businesses bringing timber into the EU for the first time are classed as ‘operators’ and are required to implement a full due diligence system to mitigate the risk of illegal timber in their supply chain. Organizations that deal with timber once it has already entered the EU are classed as ‘traders’ and are under no obligation to implement due diligence, although they must maintain 5-year records of all transactions.

What does this mean for UK timber businesses?

The UK was the second largest net importer of forest in 2017 (behind only China), so any timber legislation change is bound to have a significant ripple effect. As the new legislation is essentially a re-production of the EUTR but in Britain, the definition of ‘operator’ – and the accompanying due diligence obligations – will be extended to all businesses that first bring timber onto the UK market. Since as much as 87% of timber imports come to the UK via Europe, many British businesses will be newly classed as ‘operators’.

Likewise, EU companies which buy timber products from the UK will be classed as ‘operators’ as they too will be bringing timber onto the newly re-defined ‘EU market’ for the first time.

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