European Union companies will be forced to apply for authorisation before exporting natural mineral waters to the UK in six months time, the Government has told Brussels.
The Telegraph first reported in February that ministers were considering the move, dubbed ‘water wars’, as a response to Brussels’s refusal to allow live UK shellfish imports.
The decision means that companies exporting brands such as Evian, Volvic, Perrier and St Pellegrino will face additional red tape.
Last year, about €114m (£98m) worth of mineral water was imported to the UK from the EU, according to the Eurostat agency.
Currently any water recognised as “natural mineral water” by an authority in an EU member state is automatically recognised in the UK.
From Jan 7, suppliers will have to have their water recognised by Food Standards Scotland, Defra or the Food Standards Agency, or be banned from Britain.
British mineral waters have had to apply for recognition in an EU member state before exporting to the bloc since Brexit took effect on Dec 31.
“All natural mineral waters which obtained their recognition in or by an EU member state will no longer be authorised for import into England as natural mineral waters,” George Eustice, the environment secretary, wrote to the European Commission.
“Unless they are recognised as such by a responsible authority of the United Kingdom with the exception of Northern Ireland.”
In Northern Ireland, which continues to follow some EU rules after Brexit to avoid a hard Irish border, natural mineral waters recognised by supervisors in EU countries can still be imported.
“The automatic recognition for EEA and EU Natural Mineral Waters will cease from 7 January 2022. This means that mineral water can still be sold in Great Britain, but producers will need to apply for recognition before that date,” a Defra spokesman said.
A commission spokesman said the EU executive had received the letter, which was sent shortly after Brussels agreed an extension to a grace period for British sausages in the Northern Ireland Protocol but had no further comment.
Secretary general of Natural Mineral Waters Europe, Patricia Fosselard, said: “Brexit has resulted in the EU-UK trade in natural mineral waters becoming increasingly complex for producers on both sides.”
A spokesman from the Natural Source Waters Association said: “Natural source water producers who import Natural Mineral Water to the UK are aware of the changes being introduced by Defra and the devolved governments, and are already working closely with them to ensure that there is no disruption in providing those Natural Mineral Waters to consumers in the UK”.