Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has said there is an "urgent need" for a veterinary agreement between the UK and the EU to help resolve issues experienced by pedigree breeders and sheep importers.

McAleer raised the issue during a meeting on Thursday (April 15) with Simon Hoare MP, chair of the NI Affairs Committee.

“I told Mr. Hoare that I have been inundated with messages from distressed farmers who have flocks of sheep in Scotland that they cannot take home due to scrapie monitoring rules and pedigree farmers who cannot access British marts due to the six-month residency rule and the financial burden this would create if they do not sell," he said.

“Farmers are telling me that the ‘shop window’ for accessing genetics has been closed and the same issue applies to commercial sheep breeders due to lack of access to breeding replacements.

“At the meeting, I told Hoare that this is very damaging to our local breeders who need to trade freely with Britain and that a veterinary agreement between Westminster and the EU would help achieve this.

Opposition to UK-EU veterinary area

McAleer continued: “I note from current talks going on between the EU and UK that Lord Frost, on behalf of the UK, is opposing such an agreement.

“This is deeply regrettable and demonstrates very little regard for farmers who are suffering from the fallout of a Brexit decision that was not supported here, compounded by Britain diverging from EU regulations.

“A UK-EU Veterinary agreement would make sense. Farmers here do not want to reduce standards but need access to British markets for essential genetic and financial reasons.

"I stressed the urgency of this to Mr. Hoare and asked him to use his influence on the British government to take a sensible and pragmatic approach to this matter.”

Speaking in the House of Lords in March, Lord Forst, told peers: "The downside to a Swiss-style SPS or veterinary agreement is that it would require our food and drink sector to accept not laws that were made in this country but the laws of the European Union.

"As far as this government are concerned, that is quite a considerable downside to such an agreement. It is why we cannot accept one that is based on dynamic alignment."