The UK introduced national measures against ash dieback in 2012. These required all imports of ash trees (Fraxinus species) to originate from pest-free areas for ash dieback. Therefore, import and movement of ash was essentially prohibited.
On 14 December 2019, Plant Health Regulations were implemented which mean the legal basis for national measures no longer applied after 13 January 2020. The UK meets World Trade Organization obligations and operates the EU Plant Health Regulation and will continue to do so until the end of the Transition Period.
Under certain circumstances, the UK also uses national measures to enhance or supplement the main biosecurity provisions in the EU Regulation. These national measures are only used to protect against pests or diseases that are not already established in the UK. Ash dieback no longer meets these criteria – it is well established and widely distributed, being present in every county. As such, there is no technical case and no purpose to retaining national measures against ash dieback. There is much more benefit to be gained from lifting the restrictions, so that tolerant ash trees can be bred, moved and planted. The main risk to ash now is from entry of new strains of ash dieback present in Asian countries but not Europe, as well as pests such as the emerald ash borer.
Given the prevalence of ash dieback within the UK, the main biosecurity concern is minimising the risk of introducing new strains of the disease through import. We are maintaining measures to prevent this, with the import of ash trees from third countries prohibited. This will reduce the main risk of entry of both new strains of ash dieback present in Asian countries, as well as dangerous novel pests such as the emerald ash borer.
Given the current situation with ash dieback in the UK, importing ash is not a sustainable planting choice, and we ask you to ensure strong biosecurity practices are followed in your planting choices.
A guidance note providing more information about these changes is available as a PDF by following the links from the ‘Tools & resources’ tab at www.forestresearch.gov.uk.
This article was taken form Issue 189 Summer 2020 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.