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Urgent assurances sought from Government on veterinary medicines supplies for Northern Ireland

30 April 2024

The Sub-Committee on The Windsor Framework has written to the Government raising serious concerns about veterinary medicine supplies to Northern Ireland. The letter emphasizes the need for a swift solution between the UK and EU to ensure continued access to a full range of veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland, which is critical for protecting animal health, the food supply chain, and ultimately, public health.

In January 2024, the Sub-Committee on the Windsor Framework launched an inquiry to examine the impact of the application of the EU Veterinary Medicinal Products Regulation in Northern Ireland, including the effect on industry if no solution is reached. This comes as a grace period for veterinary medicines is due to expire in December 2025, after which EU rules will apply in full unless an alternative solution is reached. As part of its investigation, the Committee heard from academics, veterinary professionals, farming representatives, business organisations and the Government. It also heard from a wide range of industry stakeholders during its visit to Northern Ireland in February.

The Committee’s findings raise serious concerns about the potential consequences of the full EU rules taking effect. Current estimates suggest around a third of currently used veterinary medicines might no longer be available after the end of the grace period which would have negative consequences for both human and animal health. Restrictions on veterinary medicines would have a significant impact on the farming industry, making it difficult for them to sell their produce. The Committee also highlights the critical link between animal health and public health, especially with food-producing animals, and emphasises the urgency of finding a solution between the UK and EU to ensure continued access to a full range of veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland.

Key questions:

In its letter, the Committee endorses a number of recommendations highlighted in the evidence it received and asks the Government for:

  • An updated assessment of the number of veterinary medicines at risk of being discontinued;
  • The Government’s analysis of the potential economic consequences linked to a reduction in the availability of veterinary medicines;
  • Whether an assessment has been made of the potential of a reduction in veterinary medicines for human health and the food supply chain in Great Britain and Ireland;
  • What progress has been made in reaching a solution with the EU

Chair’s comments:

Lord Jay of Ewelme, Chair of The Windsor Framework Sub-Committee, said:

“This is an issue of vital importance which affects everyone, regardless of political hue. The Government has spoken of the need to make ‘rapid progress’, and we are stressing the need for a positive and swift outcome within what is a tight timescale complicated by upcoming elections in the EU and UK.
“We have set out some solutions proposed by our witnesses. They were united on the importance of political will in resolving this crucial issue, and the urgency in doing so, and we endorse their call for talks leading to a mutually-agreed solution between the UK and the EU as soon as possible.”

Further information

Image: © Monika Kubala -