Will Live Animal Exports Be the Latest Victim of Brexit?

There have been many foreign policy fallouts as a result of Brexit, with negative consequences ranging from a lack of innovation due to restrictions on association with neighboring countries to determining how refugee support will be funded in the future. Perhaps one of the most troubling issues for the global economy is the uncertainty around live animal exports as a result of Brexit. What is most frustrating for individuals in the farming industry and investors is that the problem isn’t a lack of demand — it’s an overabundance of paperwork that must be completed to continue their trade in livestock.

Additional Animal Health Certificate Requirements in 2021

Veterinarians are expecting to be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of requests pouring in for health certificates in the new year. The December 31, 2020 end of transition date is looming large, with new standards going in place on January 1, 2021, that require a registered, official veterinarian to provide a health certificate for all plant and animal products to the EU. More than five times the current level of certificates will be required, a situation that is likely to slow exports to a trickle throughout the region.

Costs for Certifications Adding Up Quickly

Since the health certificates are only valid if they are presented by an official veterinarian, the costs for providing the service will be felt throughout the industry, too. Government teams estimate that the cost could be up to £900, depending on how quickly the certificate is needed and the type of certificate issued. This is one of the key challenges that is coming as a result of Brexit, due to EU trade agreements for specific goods being rendered invalid with the expiration of the grace period for Brexit. There are particular concerns about the trade that occurs in the area around the UK, including Northern Ireland and Ireland — where many live animals and plants are ultimately destined for export from the UK.

Concerns Around the Practice of Live Animal Exports

Not everyone is concerned about the stalling of live animal exports from the UK, as animal rights activists look to this revised practice as a way to improve the overall welfare of these animals. Often cited problems by the activists include the long drives and additional air or truck transport within the region. Sea-based journeys are also often cited as a contention by animal rights activists. Besides the transport issue, there are also concerns that animals receive a lower quality of care in countries without the strict standards that the UK has in place for their treatment.

With overseas sales forming a significant portion of their ongoing revenue, this is a major concern for farmers throughout the region. The EU enjoyed a high export volume over the past year, with more than £4.9bn of fish and meat exports combined. Disrupting this trading within the former EU is simply the latest of the challenges caused by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

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