Brexit could jeopardise the UK’s ability to manage threats from animal and plant diseases, a report by the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Committee has warned.
According to the report ‘Brexit: plant and animal biosecurity’, the UK would no longer have automatic access to “vital” EU alerts on pest and disease threats after March 2019.
The committee urged the government to negotiate access to “as many of the EU’s notification and intelligence sharing networks as possible”, highlighting the 300 different diseases, pests and invasive species intercepted at UK borders in 2017 which pose a constant threat to the UK’s environment and economy.
Currently, most decisions on how to react to biosecurity threats were made at an EU level, said the committee. A no-deal departure next year would leave UK biosecurity vulnerable unless the government is able to create a replacement framework in time, it added.
“The 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak in the UK led to more than six million animals being slaughtered and is estimated to have cost over £8bn, and now there are fears over African swine fever,” said chairman of the committee, Lord Teverson.
“The existing arrangements are far from perfect but significant gaps will be created when the UK leaves them. We rely on the EU for everything from auditing plant nurseries and farms to funding our research laboratories. The UK government has a huge amount of work to do to replace this system in time for Brexit, and failure to do so could have an economic and environmental impact that would be felt for decades to come.”