A joint campaign by growers, industry bodies and the media had looked as though it had helped progress changes in European PRM legislation that in its original form would have brought new regulation to ornamental horticulture, drastically reducing the range of plants available in the trade.
All plants known by "common knowledge names" would, under the proposal, have required lengthy and costly contentious article 50 "officially recognised descriptions" (HW, 13 September).
Defra and the industry reached "a degree of unanimity" on a new HTA draft on the measures at a meeting on 22 October and Defra will now use it as a negotiating position with the EC to try and force through changes.
Plants for Europe owner Graham Spencer, Farplants director Martin Emmett, the RHS, NFU, Plant Heritage and others campaigned on the issue. But Spencer said EU rapporteur Sergio Silvestris's new report makes "no change" to the crucial wording "commonly known as" in article 50.
"This could still change," said Spencer. "Defra's position paper includes a solution to that problem but we need to see it adopted." The deadline for amendments was 4 December. Spencer added: "There will be more changes, but it is not going as well as Lord de Mauley is making out. It's not a done deal."
De Mauley told the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group annual reception last week that the EC is "relenting" on proposed "onerous" PRM rules following "concerted pressure from Defra".
Spencer said a new EU ComEnvi report is equally unhelpful. "Neither of them satisfy all our concerns. Neither addresses the article 50 problem (officially recognised description). The rapporteur addresses the problem of ornamental plants listed in annex 1, albeit only to move them to the scope of article 50. ComEnvi makes life much harder for conservation bodies."
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"I'm already onto Vicky Ford MEP, who sits on ComEnvi and had promised to help us on this issue. I've got a conference call lined up with her for next week. If the ComEnvi changes went through, it would actually make things worse. How Lord de Mauley can say the PRM issue is under control, I have no idea."
Graham Spencer, owner, Plants for Europe