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Animal health laws could diverge between GB and Northern Ireland

Union Jack and European flags in a field of Oilseed Rape

ANIMAL HEALTH regulations could have diverged between Northern Ireland and Great Britain by this time next year, MPs have warned.

The changes could throw up complications for exporting farm produce from GB to Northern Ireland and beyond into Europe.

See also: EU farmers call for import control and breeding stock support

Animal health has been highlighted as an area of policy that will need special arrangements under the future relationship, in terms of sanitary and phytosanitary standards.

A new regulatory framework for animal health will apply to EU member states from 21 April 2021 that aims to simplify the existing framework and allow member states to act more quickly in cases of animal health emergencies.

Transition period

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and Europe, the new framework will apply in Northern Ireland, but not in GB.

That would be the case while the “transition period” between the UK and EU is in place. 

The aim is for it to end on 31 December this year, but an extension could be granted on 30 June 2020, if both parties agree.

Extension

The disruption caused by coronavirus may place pressure on the UK government and the EU to agree to an extension.

If it is extended beyond April, then – unless changes are made – Great Britain would retain the existing law and no longer align with the EU and Northern Ireland.

MPs on the Commons European Scrutiny Committee highlighted the potential divergence, saying that the main initial concern could be for exports from GB to Ireland and beyond.

‘Brief checks’

“Currently, the import of live animals into Northern Ireland from Great Britain requires an import licence, with consignments subject to brief checks.

“EU law requires that imports of live animals from third countries enter the single market through Border Control Posts (BCPs) and be subject to veterinary inspection.”

“That extends to such imports under the EU-New Zealand agreement, which the Government indicated was its preferred model for future cooperation with the EU on sanitary matters.

“Inspection fees and checks (at specified frequencies) apply under the EU-New Zealand agreement.”


The ESC chair has written to the government asking for clarity on the matter.

The full report was published on the UK Parliament’s website.