Managing Post-Brexit UK-EU Food Trade: How Deep can ‘Deep Regulatory Cooperation’ be?

European Food and Feed Law Review (Forthcoming)

26 Pages Posted: 7 May 2019 Last revised: 21 Jan 2020

See all articles by Chris Downes

Chris Downes

The European Consulting Company (ECCO)

Date Written: January 21, 2020


The EU and UK have signalled their common aim of deep regulatory cooperation after Brexit. In the area of sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) that govern food trade, this comprises regulatory discipline that extends beyond existing WTO obligations. While the Therese May government's ambition of ‘frictionless trade’ may have been cast aside, minimising new SPS barriers remains essential to the new trading relationship. This article evaluates the prospects of deep EU-UK regulatory cooperation in this domain, outlining the EU’s traditional approach to SPS Chapters in free trade agreements and discussing more ambitious alternatives. It focuses on five of the key SPS negotiating areas identified by the European Commission: approvals and authorisations, trade facilitation, transparency, bilateral consultation mechanisms and the precautionary principle. It identifies areas where advancing ‘WTO-Plus’ obligations appears feasible, and those where deeper cooperation looks less promising. In so doing, it seeks to provide a helpful framework for analysing the upcoming negotiations.

Keywords: SPS; Brexit; food law; transparency; equivalence; precautionary principle; FTA; mutual recognition

Suggested Citation

Downes, Chris, Managing Post-Brexit UK-EU Food Trade: How Deep can ‘Deep Regulatory Cooperation’ be? (January 21, 2020). European Food and Feed Law Review (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: or

Chris Downes (Contact Author)

The European Consulting Company (ECCO) ( email )

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