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Brexit: plant and animal biosecurity report published by Committee

24 October 2018

The EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee publishes its report on the potential impact of Brexit on plant and animal biosecurity.

Key findings

The report finds that the UK's biosecurity could be at risk after Brexit if it loses access to vital EU alerts on animal and plant pest and disease threats. The Committee urges the government to seek continued participation in the EU's notification and intelligence sharing networks, advising that continued cooperation is critical to our ability to manage threats which could be economically and ecologically catastrophic to the UK.

The Committee highlights at least seven areas that the UK Government will need to address before Brexit day, if the UK's biosecurity is not to be compromised:

  • Information sharing;
  • Capacity in the veterinary sector;
  • Inspections and audits;
  • Access to research funding;
  • Enforcement of biosecurity legislation; Capacity within Government departments and agencies; and
  • The legislative framework.

The Committee expresses doubt that the UK would have effective replacement systems ready in the event of a no-deal Brexit in March 2019.

The Committee recognises that leaving the EU could open opportunities for the UK to implement stricter biosecurity measures at its borders but cautioned that these additional checks would create barriers to the free-flow of imports and exports. The report concludes that the Government will have to strike a balance between maintaining the integrity of the UK's biosecurity and the need to facilitate trade and reduce delays at the UK's ports and airports.

Chair's comments

Lord Teverson, Chairman of the Sub-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."

Further information

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