The 4th delay in proposed import checks into the UK post-Brexit has angered vets, who claim the failure to act “flies in the face of common sense”.
The UK government’s announcement to scrap the planned introduction of import checks on animals and animal products from 1 July and develop a “new regime of import controls” by the end of 2023 has 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 implications for animal health and British agriculture, and open a threat of the incursion of diseases, such as African Swine Fever.
Commenting following the announcement by Brexit Opportunities Minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg, James Russell, BVA senior vice president, said: “This move flies in the face not only of common sense but also of the government’s commitment to preserving 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 globally. With the UK now being outside the EU’s integrated and highly responsive surveillance system, we have repeatedly warned that delaying veterinary checks could weaken vital lines of defence against future incursions.
“To remove the requirements for checks entirely appears deeply misguided; we urge the government to abandon these plans and close off the threat of causing significant damage to our food and farming industries,” Russell added.
Richard Griffiths, British Poultry Council chief executive, said delays to the introduction of full import controls means that British exporters will continue to face the burdens, costs and red tape that hinder fair competition.
“To say that businesses can stop their preparations for July now, as if you are doing exporters a favour, completely negates the reality that most of our current supply chain stress stems from the costly disparity of EU-UK trade,” he said.
Griffiths added that British poultry meat businesses did not need reminding of the ongoing trade problems, saying between 2020-2021 they had lost £85 million in chicken exports: “This is not a ‘new approach for a new era’; this is the UK government continually refusing to confront 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 most prized food market in the world…”
Minette Batters, National Farmers’ Union president, added the decision was unfair: “It’s enormously concerning on 2 counts – we want a fair approach. The EU has exactly what it has before – free and frictionless access to the most prized food market in the world and our farmers have costs and checks with exports entering the EU market. It’s unfair in the first instance but extremely worrying as an island nation on the future of biosecurity.
“If we’re not ready to introduce checks with the EU what does that say about our relationships with the rest of the world and these trade deals we are negotiating right now with Australia due for ratification this year. We’ve got to have the ability to keep this country secure for animal health, plant health and food safety and to be able to check products coming in,” she told BBC Farming Today.