The UK government’s announcement to abandon the planned introduction of import controls for animals and animal products from July 1 and to develop a “new import control regime” by end of 2023 infuriated the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
The BVA has repeatedly warned that delaying checks, which have already been pushed back 3 times, could have serious consequences for animal health and UK agriculture, and open up a threat of incursion of diseases, such as swine fever African.
“Weaken the vital lines of defense”
Commenting on Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg’s announcement, James Russell, BVA’s senior vice-chairman, said: “This decision flies in the face not only of common sense, but of the government’s commitment to safeguarding high levels of animal and human health in the UK Diseases such as African swine fever have already had a catastrophic impact on agriculture and animal health in parts of Europe and elsewhere in the world. With the UK now outside the EU’s integrated and highly responsive surveillance system, we have repeatedly warned that delaying veterinary checks could weaken vital lines of defense against future forays.
“Removing control requirements entirely seems deeply wrong; we urge the government to abandon these plans and remove the threat of causing significant damage to our food and agricultural industries,” Russell added.
Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, said delays in introducing comprehensive import controls mean UK exporters will continue to face the burdens, costs and red tape that hinder fair competition.
“To say that businesses can halt their preparations for July now, as if you were doing exporters a favor, completely negates the reality that much of the stress on our supply chain today stems from the costly disparity in EU-UK trade. United,” he said.
Griffiths added that UK poultry meat companies need not be reminded of ongoing trade issues, saying that between 2020 and 2021 they lost £85million in chicken exports: is not a ‘new approach for a new era’; it is the UK government that continually refuses to face the realities of the Brexit they wanted to deliver,” he added.
“The EU has exactly what it has before – free and frictionless access to the world’s most prized food market…”
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, added that the decision was unfair: “It is extremely concerning on two counts – we want a fair approach. The EU has exactly what it had before – free and frictionless access to the world’s most prized food market and our farmers have costs and controls with exports entering the EU market. It’s unfair to begin with, but hugely worrying as an island nation about the future of biosecurity.
“If we’re not ready to introduce checks with the EU, what does that say about our relationship with the rest of the world and these trade deals that we’re currently negotiating with Australia, which need to be ratified? this year. We need to have the ability to keep this country safe for animal health, plant health and food safety and to be able to check the products that come in,” she told BBC Farming Today.