Irish backstop could kill UK plans for live export ban

Trucks line up before cattle are loaded into a vessel. Stock image. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
Trucks line up before cattle are loaded into a vessel. Stock image. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Brexit deal agreed between the UK and EU could create an Irish loophole around proposals in Britain to ban live exports.

Campaigners who want to see an end to live exporters believe the UK’s withdrawal agreement may make a ban impossible.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said that once Britain leaves the EU, the country could ban the export of thousands of live farm animals to mainland Europe.

The policy which will likely be opposed by farming organisations  would enjoy support from campaign groups pushing for a broad ban, amid rising anger over animals suffering terrible health problems and death as they are taken in trucks across the continent.

But campaigners who have studied the draft Brexit agreement, published last week, say the document could undermine plans for a ban.

The Northern Ireland backstop protocol states: “Quantitative restrictions on exports and imports shall be prohibited between the Union and Northern Ireland” – effectively insisting on free movement of goods.

Animal rights groups who had hoped Brexit could allow for a ban fear that instead this wording will create a loophole that would prevent one.

If Britain puts a block on live exports, sheep and cattle farmers would be highly likely to charter vessels to ship animals to Northern Ireland, from where they would be taken the Republic and then the Continent, Animal Rights Group Compassion in World Farming told The Independent.

Peter Stevenson, chief policy adviser for the group, said there was a precedent for exporters using the Northern Ireland route.

Until last month, he claimed calves were sent from Scotland to the province then driven by road to the Irish Republic before being transported to Europe.

In a recent paper on the issue, the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) in Northern Ireland said as Northern Ireland is separated from GB by a body of water there is the potential for this proposed export ban to cause greater disruption to the beef and sheep industries in NI than any other region of the UK.

It said that it is worth noting that travel times between NI and GB are short in comparison to trade from GB to the EU.

It also noted that Northern Ireland is also in the unique position of being the only part of the UK to have a land border with another EU member state which facilitates much shorter transport times.

Online Editors