The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has highlighted that it is “unclear” how the re-tagging of livestock moved to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK should operate in relation to the Windsor Framework.

In an opinion document, Oliver Ropke, the president of the EESC, highlighted that the EU has amended its “delegated regulation” allowing cattle and sheep to move outside the EU regulatory zone – and therefore Northern Ireland – and return within 15 days.

But Ropke stated that in practice, it is still a “challenge” for Northern Ireland cattle breeders.

Currently, cattle entering Northern Ireland from UK must have, in addition to their two UK tags, an additional “Great Britain (GB) export tag” applied.

Within 20 days of entering Northern Ireland, they must then have two specific tags applied in the north.

The EESC said that “unless tags are removed, this procedure is very impractical and could also have animal welfare implications”.

For cattle in England the international organisation for standardisation (ISO) code must be a GB tag. In Wales and Scotland, a GB tag or 826 can be used. Any type of tag may be used for this additional export tag, but it should be easily read from a distance.

European movement rules

The EESC opinion document also highlighted specific rules relating to the entry into Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK.

Livestock marts in Britain are required to be Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) approved export centres, so that all the animals being sold at the marts are at an equal health status.

The EESC has claimed that there is “little or no demand for APHA-approved export centres in the UK” and “at present only Carlisle is APHA-approved, leaving it to be the only mart Northern Ireland cattle can be sold and avail of the EU delegated regulation”.

This means that if animals from Northern Ireland are offered for sale at a mart that is not APHA approved, and are not sold, then they must remain in the UK for six months before returning to Northern Ireland, making it financially unviable for producers.