Claims of an EU mineral water ban need a drop of context

28 October 2021
What was claimed

The UK will cease to recognise and allow the import of mineral water from the EU and EEA from January 2022.

Our verdict

This is missing context. Manufacturers of EU mineral water can continue to export it to Britain as long as they renew their accreditation by 7 January 2022.

From 7th January the UK will cease to recognise and allow import of mineral water from the EU and EEA. In order to promote Britain's clean, healthy and delicious natural mineral waters.

In a widely shared tweet, the chief executive of campaign group Best for Britain and podcast host Naomi Smith, claimed that the UK will soon stop allowing mineral water to be imported from the EU, in order to promote British alternatives.

We’ve also seen similar claims on Facebook.

This leaves out some important context, because EU and EEA mineral water can continue to be imported in January if it gets accredited. The Environment Secretary George Eustice announced that EU manufacturers could apply for accreditation in a letter on 2 July 2021, which Ms Smith herself shared alongside her tweet.

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What is happening with mineral water? 

Before Brexit, mineral water that was approved in another EU country could be imported freely into the UK.

This is still true in Northern Ireland after Brexit, but from 7 January next year, EU mineral water must be accredited by the authorities in England, Scotland or Wales in order to be imported into the rest of the UK.

This means that all EU mineral water can in theory continue to be sold in Britain—as long as it has been re-accredited here by 7 January. The food critic Jay Rayner replied to Ms Smith on this basis, saying that her comments were “not quite true”.

What about red tape?

In practice some EU mineral water could be effectively excluded from Britain if it can’t be re-accredited in time.

And guidance from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that the process can take up to two years for English mineral water.

However, Defra told Full Fact that the re-accreditation of EU water was a different process, which can be completed within two weeks if everything is well prepared.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We have been in contact with all major Natural Mineral Water suppliers in advance, to offer support and notify them of upcoming changes – and will continue to engage with the industry to ensure a smooth transition.”

Until this process is complete, we cannot know whether any EU mineral water will be excluded from Britain after 7 January. But Ms Smith was incorrect to imply that the government would definitely prevent all mineral water from the EU being imported.

We took a stand for good information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted Naomi Smith to ask her to amend her claim on Twitter.

She has posted a reply which adds context to her initial Tweet. 

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