Fourth Report of Session 2019-21 Contents

2Animal health standards12

This EU document is politically important because it:

  • will apply in Northern Ireland under the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol;
  • will, along with the overarching animal health Regulation, apply from 21 April 2021 and will therefore present imminent potential divergence between the EU/NI and GB after the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020; and
  • is in an area (sanitary and phytosanitary standards — SPS) identified by the Government and EU as requiring particular arrangements under the future relationship.

Action

  • Write to the Minister raising queries regarding future SPS arrangements.

Overview

2.1A new EU regulatory framework for animal health will apply from 21 April 2021,13 bringing together and simplifying the framework that has previously operated and enabling Member States to react quickly in cases of animal health emergencies. Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement’s Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol, the new framework will apply in Northern Ireland but it will not apply in Great Britain, where — unless changes are made (see below) — the default law will be the current EU regulatory framework,14 enshrined in the UK as “EU retained law”.

2.2This document makes largely minor changes to the detailed rules for terrestrial animals and hatching eggs, but it is of particular interest as it highlights a policy area — animal health — where regulatory divergence between GB on the one hand and the EU and Northern Ireland on the other soon after the transition period has ended could be imminent. The Prime Minister has made clear that the transition period will end on 31 December 2020, though this will only be legally certain under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement on 30 June 2020—the deadline for the EU and UK to agree a one-off extension for up to one or two years.15

2.3Currently, the import of live animals into Northern Ireland from Great Britain requires an import licence,16 with consignments subject to brief checks. EU law requires that imports of live animals from third countries enter the single market through Border Control Posts (BCPs) and be subject to veterinary inspection.17 That extends to such imports under the EU-New Zealand agreement, which the Government indicated was its preferred model for future cooperation with the EU on sanitary matters.18 Inspection fees and checks (at specified frequencies) apply under the EU-New Zealand agreement.

2.4The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Biosecurity (Lord Gardiner) noted in his Explanatory Memorandum that the UK was involved throughout the process of adopting the document (Delegated Regulation) subject to scrutiny. He added that the UK had played a prominent role in the development of the wider review of the animal health rules. As such, the UK was broadly supportive of them and will keep their relevance to the UK’s national circumstances under review. The Minister explained that, if the provisions of the Delegated Regulation were to be implemented across the UK, there would be some changes to legislation but that the main activities of government bodies, vets and operators would remain largely unchanged.

Action

2.5We note that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future arrangements for SPS controls between the GB and Northern Ireland, as well as the wider EU. We have therefore written to the Government as set out below requesting further information on the following points:

Letter from the Chair to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural and Biosecurity

We considered your Explanatory Memorandum on the above document at our meeting of 23 March 2020.

We note that the UK was closely involved in the preparation of both this Delegated Regulation and the wider Animal Health Act and that, as such, the UK is broadly supportive. Your EM acknowledges that the UK in respect of Northern Ireland will be obliged to apply the legislation from 21 April 2021 and it implies that Great Britain may apply it (in full or in part).

Animal health legislation constitutes some of the sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS), regarding which, both the EU and UK have acknowledged that specific arrangements will be required in the future. Bearing in mind the particular importance of this matter to the export of live animals from GB to Northern Ireland, we request information on the following points:

We ask for a response within ten working days.


12 Commission Delegated Regulation of 17.12.2019 supplementing Regulation (EU) 2016/429 as regards animal health requirements for movements within the EU of terrestrial animals and hatching eggs; 15206/19 + ADD 1, C(2019) 4058; Legal base: Regulation (EU) 2016/429; Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Devolved Administrations: Consulted; ESC number: 41037.

13 Regulation (EU) 2016/429 (as amended) of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on transmissible animal diseases and amending and repealing certain acts in the area of animal health (‘Animal Health Law’) The main differences between the existing and new frameworks are summarised by the European Commission: “Animal Health Law“.

14 The current framework consists of 30 different pieces of legislation.

15 Article 132 of the EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement empowers the EU/UK Joint Committee to agree an extension of the transition period of up to one or two years by 30 June 2020. Section 15A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 prohibits a Minister representing the UK in the Joint Committee from agreeing to an extension. For the UK to agree to an extension in the Joint Committee would require a statutory amendment.

16 Introduction to importing animals and animal products, Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland.

17 Regulation (EU) 2017/625 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products (Official Controls Regulation).

18 Agreement between the European Community and New Zealand on sanitary measures applicable to trade in live animals and animal products.




Published: 29 April 2020