Livestock medicines to get ‘special import status’ as Brexit looms

Veterinary drugs have been granted special status as one of the UK’s most critical imports as the stakes of Brexit ramp up.

The items will be granted limited Government-secured freight space in the event that the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

Critical goods have been identified as those most essential for the preservation of human and animal welfare, such as medicines.

The list will see certain high-importance goods, such as human medicines, medical devices, vaccines and chemicals for use in the energy sector, prioritised in transport networks.

Extensive work has been undertaken across several key sectors to understand their capacity needs and ensure that supplies of critical goods continue in any scenario.

An official statement said: “The Government’s priority remains leaving the EU with a deal, but departments continue to carry out sensible contingency planning in case of a ‘no-deal’ outcome.

As part of this, the Government has secured additional freight capacity to relieve potential pressure on the Dover straits and help ensure that critical goods continue to enter the UK.

It’s understood contracts have been secured with Brittany Ferries and DFDS to run ferries into and out of Poole, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Immingham and Felixstowe.

Officials will engage directly with companies that supply critical goods about how they can purchase tickets on these additional crossings. Only suppliers identified by their sponsor departments will be able to purchase tickets.

Goods relevant to Defra which are Category 1 but have not been considered to require access to the Government-secured freight capacity at this stage include:

  • Critical food chain dependencies, for example, chemicals and key additives used within the food supply chain (for import only as required);
  • Chemicals for water purification and treatment (for import only as required).

RSPCA chief veterinary officer Caroline Allen welcomed the decision to include veterinary pharmaceuticals.

“We are encouraged that the import of animal medicines will be prioritised in the event of a no-deal Brexit,” she said.

We have been very concerned that there could be interruptions to the supply chain of drug supplies used in our veterinary hospitals and other vets if we leave the EU without a trade deal.

“So we have been urging the government to prioritise the welfare and health of those animals most in need.

“Brexit is likely to have far-reaching implications for all aspects of animal welfare as we have seen through the Sentience Bill and changes to the Common Agricultural Policy.

“But we believe the Government’s decision to add veterinary medicines to the ‘critical goods’ list of items considered essential for the preservation of human and animal welfare is a small step in the right direction to mitigate the negative effects a no-deal Brexit could have on animal welfare.”

However, Allen added that the RSPCA remains concerned that veterinary surgeons, unlike veterinary drugs, have not been added to any critical lists.

“Any shortage [in vets] will greatly impact on animal welfare especially in the slaughter of farm animals,” she added.

“It’s important that welfare, rather than economics, is put first and that the medicines apply to all types of animals, both large and small.”