The issue of moving NI livestock back from pedigree sales in Britain is becoming increasingly frustrating for the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), a House of Lords committee has been told.

“As an organisation, our patience is growing thin when it comes to livestock movements,” UFU parliamentary officer Alexander Kinnear said during a meeting in Westminster last week.

Under the Brexit deal, which came into effect in January 2021, NI livestock need to complete a six-month residency period in Britain before returning from pedigree sales back to NI.

The EU and UK agreed a potential solution last year, which would allow NI cattle and sheep to return from Britain within 15 days if the sale is licensed for export.

However, Kinnear said the rules associated with export sales are proving unworkable and he described some of the requirements as “an insult to the industry”.

“It is an onerous process and requires farmers to change boiler suits and put on different footwear to view NI animals. It really is an issue that, if it is not resolved in the autumn, it’s going to have to be looked at again,” he said.

Windsor Framework

Livestock movements from Britain to NI were not addressed in the Windsor Framework, which was agreed in February 2023 as a means of fixing various issues with post-Brexit trade.

Kinnear pointed out that another key omission from the deal is the supply of veterinary medicines from Britain to NI.

A grace period is currently in place until the end of 2025, although after that there remains the risk that around 50% of veterinary medicines could no longer be available in NI.

Kinnear said the UFU was “quite concerned” about the lack of recent dialogue between UK and EU officials on addressing the issue in the long term.

“There appears to be a stalling in anybody wanting to do anything about it,” he maintained.

Seed potatoes

However, progress has been made with other post-Brexit trade issues. This includes the publication of a new plant health label last week, which aims to allow the likes of seed potatoes to move from Britain to NI.

“It is a little bit too early to say how that will work in practice. Seed potatoes won’t be planted until the spring, but of course we welcome the easements that were badly needed,” Kinnear said.

Another concern with the original Brexit deal was a so-called “democratic deficit”, where NI farmers are required to follow certain EU single market rules, without having a say in setting new legislation.

“That has been addressed in part by an agri food sub-group which has got up and going through the Windsor Framework,” Kinnear said.

Easier to trade with Brazil than NI – BMPA

It will soon be easier to ship meat from Brazil to Britain than it will be to move certain products from Britain to NI, a meat factory representative has suggested.

Peter Hardwick from the British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA) explained that most of the factories that he represents are involved in moving meat from Britain to NI for further processing.

“Any of the easements that have been proposed by the Windsor Framework will largely not benefit our members,” he said.

Hardwick pointed out that EU exporters have “relatively free movement” into the British market and a new “streamlined export health certificate” will be available for countries outside the EU from next year when shipping meat to Britain.

He said the new process will apply to the likes of Brazil and Botswana, plus beef exporters in New Zealand “will not have to provide an export health certification at all”.

“We in GB, to send goods to another part of the [UK] internal market will continue to have to meet full certification requirements, whereas businesses in the EU and other countries outside the EU will have to do less to send goods to GB,” Hardwick said.