The UK government is to set up a new working group to find a long-term solution to the issue of supplying veterinary medicine to Northern Ireland.
As things stand, veterinary surgeons in Northern Ireland could lose access to an estimated 51 per cent of veterinary medicines once a temporary post-Brexit agreement between the UK and the EU ends at the end of 2025.
Set up as part of a deal to restore power-sharing in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the new Veterinary Medicines Working Group will explore ways to safeguard the supply of veterinary medicines to Northern Ireland. The group will be made up of elected representatives, farming and industry representatives, and legal and trade experts and will report its findings ‘urgently’.
The UK government has also said it plans to introduce legislation in the spring to avoid new regulatory divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland on veterinary medicines.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA), which recently gave evidence to a House of Lord’s committee about the risks to human and animal health once the current deal expires, has welcomed the latest development.
Esther Skelly-Smith, BVA Northern Ireland branch president, said: “The British Veterinary Association has been highlighting the serious threat to Northern Ireland’s access to veterinary medicines for some time and therefore it’s good to see the government commit to finding practical, long-term solutions. We have also continued to call for more dialogue between the UK government and EU Commission on this issue.
“The new Veterinary Medicines Working Group is an important step towards safeguarding supply, which if left unaddressed will have serious and far-reaching consequences for the veterinary profession, the farming and equine sectors, as well as public health.
“It is only by a willingness to look carefully and creatively for possible solutions that the ongoing protection of Northern Ireland’s animal and public health and vital agricultural industry will be ensured.”
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