Expert warns of cross border ‘live animal smuggling’ post-Brexit

A leading expert on Brexit has warned that the “all-Ireland economy” – which has taken years to build and establish – could disentangle the north/south corporation and effect communities living along the border on numerous levels should a no-deal Brexit go ahead on March 29.

Dr. Viviane Gravey is a lecturer in European Politics at Queen’s University, Belfast and co-chair of ‘Brexit & Environment’ – a network of impartial experts providing authoritative information on how Brexit is affecting environmental policies and governance.

She also stated that Irish farmers and the domestic agri-food industry could take a massive hit, if the UK exits the EU without a deal on the table.

She told AgriLand that no matter what happens at this late stage, that at the very least, a registration process will have to be established in respect of live animals coming in and out of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“The same will have to happen with milk products coming into the EU,” added Dr. Gravey.

The leading academic said the move would result in “gaps” of a few days, a few weeks, or even more, in terms of regulation because registration would need to become effective over a variety of sectors.

Hopefully, because of the importance of agriculture on the Republic of Ireland / Northern Ireland border, this matter will be dealt with in a speedy fashion.

She added: “There will have to be paperwork in place just to allow the UK to export into the EU; then you have got specific checks that are required because live animals can only enter the EU single market through agreed border inspection posts.”

Also Read: Agri-food to be most adversely effected by Brexit – Donohoe

Dairy and meat checks

While the Brexit expert admits that “we are in completely uncharted waters here”, she did point to the fact that, in the case of agreed border inspection posts, it would make “much more sense” for the checks to happen at the same place.

This, she added, would result in a certain level of co-ordination between the UK and the Irish Government.

“Whether that is then going to take the form of emergency legislation or not, I do not know. It is going to be very different from one country to another; in fact, we are not even sure what the rules will be in the UK in the case of a no deal.”

Milk and dairy products coming into the EU already have a third country authorisation and an approved establishment of origin. Dr. Gravey said she would expect similar rules to apply around meat produce in the event the UK leaves the EU on March 29 without a deal in place.

The border would need to be checked for reasons of public health, safety to consumers, fair competition, etc.

She continued: “We have just had a case in Europe of dodgy meat coming in from Poland and being detected within the current EU system, so because we are talking about the health and safety of consumers, it is very unlikely that the EU will adopt a soft touch when it comes to this particular area.”

‘Smuggling’

And with 6,000 vehicles crossing the border of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland every day, how is regulation even possible?

“Again, this is uncharted territory and we don’t know how that will work; they may try to have specific roads that are for agri-food, but there will still need to be spot checks on all the vehicles coming in to make sure that people are not smuggling,” added Dr. Gravey.

She also admitted that while smuggling live animals would probably be a bit complicated, the border had a history of smuggling and there were people who had become very skilled in smuggling operations.

“That is something that would need to be factored in,” she added.

Dr. Gravey told AgriLand that farmers in Northern Ireland were facing into “very uncertain times”.

“In Northern Ireland we are talking about very small farms; the average age of farmers is quite high. We know that irrespective of the type of Brexit, Northern Ireland is going to have to leave the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), so we are talking about uncertainty around both public support and with regards to trading relations,” she said.

In agriculture you need to be able to plan ahead because of very quick production times, etc.

She added: “What we do know and what we have seen with different milk crisis etc., there is some scope in the EU budget to agree emergency relief funds. I think that if Ireland is going to take a big hit economically, across the board because of Brexit, there is no doubt that some EU solidarity would come in.

Also Read: ‘People are starting to get jittery’: Brexit nerves grow among border farms

“I feel there is a lack of expertise and a lack of experience in negotiating international trade agreements and none of this is very reassuring for either countries that might want to trade with the UK.

We might just need to see a change of attitude from the British government in order to get these deals it is craving so much; British farmers could also end up suffering too.

“It could be very problematic for British farmers, because, as we know from experience, access to the EU and UK food market is a prize that many other countries are interested in; in order to get the trade deals that so many Brexiters want, British farming is not going to be supported.

“British farming could end up with very little tariffs on food coming into the UK,” she said.

‘Punching’

Dr. Gravey has the height of praise for the way in which the Irish Government handled the UK and the Brexit negotiations to date.

I think Ireland as a country has really punched above its weight throughout the Brexit negotiations; it has been very good at making sure all the other European countries understand the challenges that Ireland is facing.

She added: “Every time they say the don’t want to put in a border some people in Northern Ireland say ‘there is going to be no border in Northern Ireland, so who cares about a no deal anyway’. There will be checks if there is a no deal and that will be disruptive, so they don’t want to support that.

The Irish Government has shown a huge amount of influence behind Brussels doors in getting all the European countries on board.

She concluded: “All European countries have very different interests when it comes to Brexit and yet the Irish Government has managed to activate a really broad sort of EU solidarity.”