Despite the government’s stated aim to retain and, where possible, improve levels of animal health and welfare upon leaving the EU, we believe that there are broad areas of concern. These include the threat to rural businesses from capacity in veterinary and enforcement resources, pressures on standards from international trade and the impact on animal health from uncertain EU funding replacements.
Furthermore, with such uncertainty in the market, feed companies are already unwilling to extend credit to some farming businesses for livestock feed. This is likely to worsen in the short term until financial agreements for subsidy support and rural policies are agreed by the UK government and devolved administrations.
CTSI urges the government not to compromise on the standards of animal health and welfare and agriculture in order to gain access to new global markets. Imports of food and feed from countries such as China and the USA will bring competitive pressures on UK businesses to lower standards. The government must hold strong on its aim to preserve and improve standards of animal health and welfare after we leave the EU.
High domestic animal health and welfare standards have become intertwined with EU policy frameworks. It is important that the UK secures access to key networks such as The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the Rapid Alert System for Feed and Food (RASFF) and the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES).
CTSI is firmly of the view that there is a need to ensure that the rural economy is not economically damaged from the removal of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and that the system of local enforcement is protected.
Regarding CAP, the government has not yet set out how this critical funding structure will be replaced but has given indications that it will be based on funding for environmental rather than land ownership considerations. Withdrawal of funding without an adequate replacement will result in a number of businesses facing financial hardship, with the likely consequences of lower welfare standards on farms and reduced compliance with legislative standards for disease control.
CTSI urges the government to consider a plan to stop the hemorrhaging of resources for animal health and welfare regulation and enforcement at local levels. Regardless of the UK’s relationship with the EU in the future, it will still have to comply with the OIE International Standards for Animal Health for trade.
IN FOCUS: Personnel concerns
Within the UK there is a heavy reliance on veterinary field staff within the public sector from other EU Countries. These veterinary officers have a pivotal role to play in the regulatory functions on farms and in abattoirs. The status of EU workers post-Brexit, and our ability to recruit and maintain vital veterinary skills, is at risk.
CTSI is also extremely concerned about a reduction in enforcement personnel from both trading standards and environmental health. While the UK might retain protections and have sufficient powers available to enforcers, resources to effectively police are in severe decline.
On its exit from the EU, if the UK wishes to trade on a unique selling point of its high health status and its high welfare controls, it will need to demonstrate this is being effectively policed – a position that is already under pressure.