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Does Brexit risk more plant and animal diseases?

13 May 2019

On Wednesday 15 May, the House of Lords debates the EU Committee's report Brexit: plant and animal biosecurity.

In October 2018, the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee published its report on the potential impact of Brexit on plant and animal biosecurity. Their inquiry concluded that the UK's biosecurity could be at risk if the UK loses access to EU alerts on animal and plant pest and disease threats.

As geographical proximity means that the EU will always be a key source of biosecurity risks to the UK, the Committee stressed the need to maintain swift and effective information sharing mechanisms, as well as the need to increase veterinary, inspection and audit capabilities to meet the demand for additional plant and animal health checks post-Brexit and the need to provide a domestic replacement for the biosecurity research and project funding currently provided by the EU.

Chairs comments

Lord Teverson, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak in the UK led to more than six million animals being slaughtered and is estimated to have cost over £8 billion. The outbreak of Dutch elm disease that began in the 1960s destroyed millions of elm trees in the UK, and now there are fears over ash dieback and African swine fever. These examples highlight just how important biosecurity is, and the devastating impact that animal and plant diseases can have.

"The existing arrangements are far from perfect but significant gaps will be created when the UK leaves them. We rely on the EU for everything from auditing plant nurseries and farms to funding our research laboratories. The UK Government has a huge amount of work to do to replace this system in time for Brexit, and failure to do so could have an economic and environmental impact that would be felt for decades to come."

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