Brexit – what’s the future for animal health? Part 2

MINI SERIES part 2 - Regulatory and political context. Nigel Gibbens, Professor Peter Borriello, Sue Hayman MP and Rick Clayton address the regulatory and political discussions happening right now, and highlight what’s to come.
calendar icon 22 November 2017
clock icon 6 minute read

Regulatory and political context

Nigel Gibbens, a vet and Chief Veterinary Officer for the UK, began the morning session by providing an insight into some of the ongoing preparations for leaving the EU, and described the sector’s responsibility for maintaining the UK’s status as a centre of excellence for animal health and welfare.

In a statement, he described the necessary steps to achieving this:

We have to ensure that the UK maintains its standards of animal health and welfare and its reputation - its brand - to make sure that we’re a force to be reckoned with globally, as we step out to deal and trade globally to a greater extent than we ever have before.

Gibbens spoke of the Withdrawal Bill (adapted from the Great Repeal bill) and its progress to the House of Commons this month:

The Withdrawal Bill takes the position we’ve got and makes sure that the UK relevant laws based on EU laws are transcribed in a way that there are no gaps, that it functions fully, and that we have a regulatory framework that works.

This will provide certainty to our trading partners and certainty for you as businesses.

Gibbens commended vets and scientists for their contributions to research and development in the animal health sector, making the UK a respected provider of world-class innovation, a status that must continue post-Brexit. He went on further to describe the significant impact that access to medicines has on allowing UK vets to provide world-class treatment, and how continuing access to EU medicines is critical to maintaining animal health standards within the UK, a priority in Brexit negotiations.

He followed with some assurance:

Really, the detailed discussions of what’s happening on a sector by sector basis haven’t yet been engaged in because the UK and EU are at that early stage.

We are really working hard… officials are working at every possible outcome, all the way from close to ‘single market’ to the hardest possible Brexit you can imagine, so that we have planned for every eventuality.

Professor Peter Borriello, Chief Executive Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), spoke next about trade and bringing products to market within the EU and opportunities with new markets post-exit.

Speaking openly, Borriello attempted to provide some assurance for people concerned about decentralised and centralised marketing applications:

I’m going to say something that hasn’t been said anywhere else: any product which is in the UK as a medicine, that has a mutual recognition or a decentralised procedure marketing application automatically has a national one.

A centralised procedure has a slightly different approach in the EU market, but we are committed to ensuring that every single product through the centralised route, that has been approved to date, in the UK, will be a legal product from the day that we leave. Those products will remain available and will remain legal.

Boriello also commented on changing regulatory burden on the animal health sector:

All our work is geared towards one thing: to address every potential scenario. Our aim is for veterinary medicines, their authorisation, their applications, their post-licensing, their licensing regulations will appear, to all intents and purposes, to you as seamless.

Regulations are about to change which provides the opportunity for divergence between the UK and other markets, however, we are pushing for global convergence.

The morning session continued with presentations by Sue Hayman MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Rick Clayton, Technical Director, AnimalhealthEurope.

Sue Hayman MPSue Hayman acknowledged the ‘huge public appetite’ for strengthening, improving and building upon the UK’s animal health and welfare sector, and highlighted, not only the ethical gains from lobbying around improving animal welfare standards, but also the economic gains of doing so. She promised her backing for any UK body that wishes to excel towards making the UK a centre of excellence for animal health and those that wish to work on improving sustainable, efficient antibiotic usage. She also committed to ensuring that high quality, local food produce took precedence over cheap imports in our supermarkets:

What we want to see is high quality, local food on the shelves of our supermarkets. What we don’t want is to see is Brexit undermining that, and any trade deal with other countries allowing cheap food being imported, that is not as high in quality, and doesn’t have the same animal welfare protections.

Rick Clayton highlighted where the review process of Veterinary Medicinal Products is right now:

We’ve got the Commissioning Proposal and we’ve got the European Parliament’s Report (agreed in March 2017), but it is important to note that they only adopted a provisional report; it was not taken to plenary and finalised. That means that the First Reading is not officially closed yet.

The Council Readings are now approaching an end of their procedure – the Estonian Presidency is riling to reach a Council Common Position by the end of November. If they achieve that, they will have taken 20 months, but in reality, the Council have been looking at it for 38 months.

He briefly explained why the review process is taking so long, reiterating that technically, the First Reading is not yet closed:

A regulation is applied directly, it doesn’t have to be transcribed into legislation first, so of course the Member States are focussing their attention to every word.

Clayton finished by drawing attention to some key milestones on the horizon:

  • It is possible that there will be adoption of new EU regulation on time for EU exit.
  • UK exit from the EU in March 2019.
  • New European Parliament elections in May 2019, and commission in November 2.

Look out for part 3 of the ‘Brexit: what’s the future for animal health?’ MINI SERIES

The Pig Site Editor

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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