Brexit and beyond: a strong future in animal health

Mixed emotions were felt at the 2018 NOAH Brexit conference on Tuesday last week (30 October) as animal health industry representatives gathered to discuss the post-Brexit future
calendar icon 6 November 2018
clock icon 5 minute read

The Brexit and beyond: a strong future in animal health conference, hosted by the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH), brings together people from across the animal health industry to discuss and debate the risks and opportunities that Brexit may hold for the UK.

With only 150 days to establish both a deal and the constitution of that deal, the clock is ticking and patience is running low. There continues to be a distinct lack of clarity surrounding animal health and welfare policy and regulation, leaving many UK businesses sceptical of their future in the European marketplace.

Progress in 2018

It is NOAH's chief aim to ensure that UK businesses continue to operate and thrive beyond EU exit, according to Dawn Howard, Chief Executive, NOAH, who opened the conference with an update on the progress achieved to date.

"NOAH’s Brexit task force, established in October 2017, has continued to provide information to, consult with, and represent its members in all aspects of Brexit negotiations," she explained.

"When the Chequers paper was published, we were pleasantly surprised to see that there was quite a lot of reference in there to animal medicine and animal health, which is something we might not have seen had we not been so active in lobbying."

The EU withdrawal agreement made specific reference to:

• Future participation in the EMA.
• A common rulebook for many animal health areas, including medicines.
• Access to relevant and critical IT systems.
• Ensuring public routes for animal and human medicine remain available.
• Provisions of human and animal medicines to reflect their unique status.
• Release of individual batches of medicines by a qualified person based in the UK or EU.
• The roles of qualified persons in pharmacovigilance.

"Government has been running their no-deal planning, which includes over 100 technical notices covering all aspects of our future outside of the EU: finance, intellectual property and animal health, for example," Howard continued.

"Our own veterinary medicines notices were published on 24 September (2018) and they cover a range of issues, including registration of veterinary medicines, accessing animal medicines IT systems, future regulation, importing animals and animal products, and moving animals abroad.

"The proposed Agriculture Bill was also published in September, and again we were pleased to see specific mention of potential proposals to support animal health and welfare moving forward. This said, we were expecting to see a more environmental-heavy document on policy considering the preceding emphasis on a Green Brexit."

Contingency planning for a 'no-deal'

Many companies began contingency planning immediately upon the result of the referendum, looking to ensure the smooth continuation of business and maintaining product availability, whilst protecting animal health and welfare.

This year, NOAH carried out a number of surveys in order to assess the preparedness of their member companies. The results of these surveys indicated that up to 20 percent of UK products may face availability issues post-Brexit, with the primary concerns being customs delays and continuation of dual-package labelling.

Survey respondents identified that there will be financial impacts on their businesses but much of this is currently unknown: tariffs, logistics and imported raw material costs, for example, are yet to be finalised.

Many respondents report that they are planning additional product stockholding, however, 80 percent anticipate problems with moving their products into the UK.

"An increasing proportion of companies are preparing for a hard Brexit," reported Dawn Howard.

What's happening in Europe?

Rick Clayton, Technical Director, AnimalhealthEurope, provided an update on ongoing consultations in Europe and discussed the results of the AnimalhealthEurope corporate survey.

The results of the survey indicated that it will not be possible by 29 March 2019 for all companies to be compliant in everything.

"We’re keen to work through a transition period to get companies to complete compliance but this is looking increasingly unlikely," explained Clayton.

Major concerns include the need for repeat-testing on EU soil, the impact on availability of products, and interruption of distribution chains due to border restrictions and multi-lingual packaging. This is particularly critical for vaccines with very short shelf lives that could be subject to delays at the border.

The survey also highlighted the products expected to make up the most affected post EU-exit:

  • Antibiotics - 29.5 percent.
  • Vaccines - 23 percent.
  • Parasitics - 19.5 percent.

The Brexit Barometer

This quarter’s Brexit Barometer indicates clearly that the one of the greatest concerns for animal health industry representatives continues to be trade and bringing products to market.

Post-Brexit animal health and welfare, and research and development, on the other hand, received a more positive appraisal.

This said, the general feeling towards the post-Brexit future is that of pessimism and frustration as many questions remain unanswered.

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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