Category Archives: Brexit

so far in the 2021-22 Parliamentary Session…

Our latest Veterinary Policy Research Foundation Newsletter is out! Here we share some updates and highlights from the last few months.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill

After Scotland passed a similar Bill in July 2020, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act became law in England and Wales on the 29th April 2021. It increases the maximum sentence available for the most serious animal welfare offences from 6 months to five years. Lord Trees spoke at second reading and gave support to the Bill which brings the UK in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland, whilst also stressing that the power of the legislation is only as strong as our ability to enforce it.

Enforcement – Animal Welfare

No one state organisation has a statutory responsibility for animal welfare. Local authorities can appoint Inspectors, but this is a discretionary and not a legal duty. We also know that the costs to local authorities of enforcing The Animal Welfare Act are substantial. VPRF attended a roundtable meeting with RSPCA inspectorate, Local Government Animal Welfare Group, UK Centre for Animal Law (A-LAW) and the Police and identified key themes around penalties and the prosecution process.

Halal Assurance Scheme – Demonstration of Life

Along with others, Lord Trees and the VPRF have been involved in the fruition of a Halal Assurance Scheme – the Demonstration of Life Project. On Thursday 22nd April, the project was launched with attendees including Halal certification bodies, NFU, the FSA, AHDB, the BVA and the Minister of State for Defra, Lord Goldsmith. The Scheme will give assurance to Halal consumers in the UK and worldwide that sheep (and goats) stunned by the defined protocol fulfil the religious requirements of Halal – namely that an animal be alive (albeit in this case unconscious) at the time of killing. The protocol is based on a similar procedure which has been used in New Zealand very successfully for many years. Voluntary adoption of this protocol by abattoirs, will give UK sheep farmers the opportunity to exploit the international Halal sheep market and it will provide associated commercial opportunities for the participating abattoirs and certifying bodies. At a recent House of Commons International Trade Committee meeting, Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade Policy at the Department for International Trade, noted that some of the UK Halal products were in strong demand for exports and emphasised the opportunities in this area.

The Agriculture Act

The Agriculture Act passed into law last year. We are continuing
to follow up on the commitment made in the Act to improve
animal health and welfare and the professions. We wrote to
George Freeman MP, Convenor of The Reform for Resilience
Commission noting the role of precision technology, including
genetics, in livestock and the role of ruminants in climate
change
. Our comments will inform the Task Force on Innovation,
Growth and Regulatory Reform. Additionally, on the 16th March 2021, Lord Trees wrote to Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Committee on moving animal across borders, particularly drawing attention to the ‘Future of Small Abattoirs’ report, published last year.

Post-Brexit Trade

We are continuing to work on issues affecting animals, animal trade and the veterinary profession, post-Brexit. We are in consultation with veterinary bodies on work-force shortages and keep up to date on the situation. When it came to our attention that the valuable day-old-chicks exports were negatively affected by post-Brexit UK-EU border controls, we wrote the Secretary of State, George Eustice, outlining the UKs crucial role in global poultry trade. We attend meetings including the Trade and Animal Welfare Coalition webinar, providing a response the UK Trade Policy and the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s recommendations. On 26th November 2020, Lord Trees contributed to the debate on UK-

Japan Trade agreement. He outlined the limitations of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act in allowing sufficient parliamentary scrutiny and also urged the Minister to elucidate details of the Government’s often-quoted commitment:

APGAW

Jointly with APGAW, VPRF provides evidence-based briefings on animal welfare topics such as animals in science and sheep scab control policy in the UK. Lord Trees has chaired the first roundtable on reducing, refining and reusing further animals in science and we are taking this work forward this year.

One Health – United Against Rabies

Lord Trees continues to Chair the United Against Rabies Steering Group. The Steering Group is jointly formed from the tripartite, the OIE, the WHO and the FAO. It provides guidance and oversight to the three working groups made up of international scientists and stakeholders, who are tasked with delivering the goal of global rabies eradication by 2030. This work will continue throughout 2021.

One Health – Official Development Assistance

After a reduction in Official Development Assistance from 0.7 to 0.5% GDP, the budgets affected have recently been announced. Lord Trees and five other peers with health and research expertise wrote to the Prime Minister in April 2021, outlining the huge and devastating impact that the cuts are having on health intervention and research capacity in the UK and globally, as well as the reputational damage caused by the severity and speed of the cuts.

Animal Welfare and the Veterinary Profession – 2021

Going forward, the Queen’s Speech on the 11th May 2021 contains much to engage us at Westminster in the next few months. Additionally, we are scrutinising the Bill that aims to put animal sentience into UK law and getting to grips with the Professional Regulations Bill, which has implications for the future of the profession. We will follow the Environment Bill closely as it comes back into parliamentary business, including how it can better tackle the global health threat of Antimicrobial Resistance.

A question of Animal Sentience?

This issue has been a subject of interest for us, other Parliamentarians and particularly the British Veterinary Association (BVA) for some time but rejection of the Amendment (New Clause 30) to the Withdrawal Bill in the House of Commons on 15th November has heightened interest. At the Veterinary Policy Research Foundation we have compiled an Animal Sentience Briefing which summarises this fast moving situation.

The Withdrawal Bill seeks to transpose EU regulations into UK law but Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty  will not automatically become UK law as it is not an EU regulation.  Article 13 has been regarded as important by animal welfare organisations[1] as it puts an onus on EU member states, in formulating policies, to pay full regard to animal welfare requirements since animals are sentient beings. The amendment (New Clause 30) moved by Caroline Lucas MP, proposed that the principle with respect to animal sentience expressed in Article 13 should be included in the Withdrawal Bill. The amendment was rejected with a Government majority of 18.

Although much media coverage focused on this as a disagreement about whether animals were sentient or not, it has since been clarified by the Secretary of State for Defra[2], Michael Gove, that the amendment was voted down as a ‘poorly drafted and inappropriate way’ of delivering the aims of Article 13. Moreover, it is legally arguable that the Animal Welfare Act already implicitly recognises that animals are sentient.

The existing legislation within the Animal Welfare Act places the onus of responsibility for the care of animals on the keepers of those animals. Article 13 imposes duties on the state. This is the real and critical aspect of this debate.

Before and after the 15th November vote (see below) Government ministers have given assurances that they are exploring how the sentience of animals can be best enshrined in UK law.

You may rest assured that the VPRF and a number of MPs particularly associated with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare (APGAW) and outwith Parliament, the BVA are actively working to hold the government to that commitment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You will see that in a debate in the House of Lords on Brexit: Agriculture and Brexit: Farm Animal Welfare on 17th October 2017 I asked within my speech a specific question with regard to sentience:

“…with regard to the withdrawal Bill and animal welfare, while the Secretary of State has given some assurances about the important legal principles set out in the EU treaties, can the Minister explain, in writing if necessary, which of the principles of animal sentience and environmental laws will be recognised as general principles under the terms of the withdrawal Bill? Importantly, can he confirm whether they will apply to future government decision-making and judgments in court?” Lord Trees full spoken contribution can be found at: https://goo.gl/fhg4Fd

 

Ministerial response (Lord Gardiner) to Lord Trees question, by letter to Lord Teverson 3/11/17:

“Lord Trees asked which of the principles of animal sentience and environmental laws will be recognised as general principles under the terms of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, and whether they would apply to future government decision-making and judgements in court. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will convert the existing body of direct EU animal welfare and environmental laws to become UK laws. It will make sure that the same protections are in place in the UK and laws still function effectively after the UK leaves the EU.

The Withdrawal Bill will preserve environmental principles where they are included in existing EU legislation and case law. We recognise the importance of these issues and will listen carefully to the views of Parliament as the Bill progresses. Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) created a qualified obligation on the EU and EU Member States “to have full regard [to] the welfare of animals as they are sentient being” when formulating and implementing certain EU laws. Existing domestic law such as the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the various Welfare Codes made under it already protect animals where there is clear scientific evidence that they are capable of experiencing pain and suffering. Its scope is capable of being extended where the science justifies.

We are exploring how the ‘animal sentience’ principle of Article 13 can continue to be reflected in the UK when we leave the EU.”

 

In Parliament on 23rd November 2017, the Secretary of State Michael Gove delivered a Written Ministerial Statement in the Commons which you will find referred to in the briefing document and below [2].

 

Acknowledgement: we are very grateful to Dr. Michael Radford, University of Aberdeen for his expert legal interpretation of this issue.

[1] Compassion in World Farming

https://assets.ciwf.org/media/7431218/note-on-the-absence-of-article-13-tfeu-from-repeal-bill-002.pdf

[2] Written Ministerial Statement, Defra, 23.11.17

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/environment-secretary-confirms-sentience-of-animals-will-continue-to-be-recognised-and-protections-strengthened-when-we-leave-the-eu

 

Making Brexit work for animal welfare

Lord Trees spoke on 17 October in the House of Lords in a debate on the EU subcommittee reports on Brexit: agriculture and Brexit: farm animal welfare with Defra Minister Lord Gardiner.

AJT Brexit animal welfare debate

He took the opportunity to ask the Minister for further clarity on the rights of non-UK EU vets to continue to work in the UK post Brexit, he emphasised the role of vets in underpinning trade, sought assurances that animal welfare standards would not slip as a consequence of setting up new trading relationships and also spoke on the need to transpose medicines regulations into UK law to ensure that current and future medicines required for animal health are available. More generally he also asked the Minister if the Government have considered how financial inducements might be used to help to maintain animal welfare standards (e.g. during reform of farming subsidy payments) and to ensure that the EU Withdrawal Bill includes General Principles of EU law such as the Lisbon Treaty (Article 13) which requires the sentience of animals to be recognised in making and interpreting current and future laws.

Defra Minister, Lord Gardiner’s reply stated:

Lord Gardiner

“In government we absolutely recognise the key role played by vets in ensuring high animal welfare and health standards. Indeed, the Prime Minister specifically made it clear that securing the status of the veterinary workforce is a top priority. It has been my privilege to meet many EU nationals who serve in our veterinary profession and I can say how important they are to us.”

He mentioned welfare standards several times, re-iterating the Government’s position that the UK’s current standards of animal welfare will be maintained post Brexit. He also stated that the Government plans “to replicate broadly the EU’s current schedule of WTO commitments” in its future trade agreements allowing tariffs to be maintained at current level but acknowledging that decreases in tariffs can adversely impact farmers, consumers and the food industry.

In response to concerns about the negative impact of cuts in Defra funding and reduction in the Defra workforce he stated that Defra have recruited 450 additional staff, comprising policy generalists and specialists to support their comprehensive exit programme. More than 350 have already taken up posts, with the remainder currently progressing through the pre-appointment processes.

He confirmed The Secretary of State (Michael Gove’s) recent announcement that the Government intends to publish draft legislation for consultation “around the turn of the year” to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences from six months to five years in prison.

He also referred to the Government’s manifesto commitment to “take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter” as we leave the EU as well as to require CCTV in every slaughterhouse in England.

A full transcript of the debate is available here.

UK Government publishes Brexit Policy on Science and Innovation

Today the UK Government published a policy paper which outlines the UK’s objectives for a science and innovation agreement with the EU post Brexit. The full document is available here. Some key points particularly relevant for veterinarians are summarised below:

Movement of people

The UK Government has stated that whilst freedom of movement will cease to apply in the UK after we leave the EU, the UK will continue to welcome “the brightest and the best” and, as such, migration between the UK and the EU will continue.

The UK is seeking to agree a continued system for mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

European Medicines Agency (EMA)

UK Government is fully committed to continuing the close working relationship with the EMA to ensure that patients in the UK and across the EU continue to be able to access the best and most innovative medicines and be assured that their safety is protected by the strongest regulatory framework and sharing of data.

The EU has specific agreements in place with USA, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, New Zeeland and Israel covering inspections, safety of medicines and exchange of information. These provide precedents which the UK and EU could seek to build on.

Horizon 2020

This is the largest EU Research and Innovation Framework Programme to date with nearly 80 billion euros of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020).

The UK is a highly active participant in Horizon 2020 ranking first across the EU in the number of participants with signed contracts (7,360 so far).

UK Government has promised to underwrite bids for Horizon 2020 projects submitted while the UK is still a member of the EU.

Precedents exist for non-EU participation in EU science and innovation programmes. For example, there are currently 16 non-EU countries formally associated with Horizon 2020.

After the UK leaves the EU, terms of association (including financial contributions) will be determined by international agreements with the EU.

The UK Government would also like to explore forging a more ambitious and close partnership with the EU than any yet agreed between the EU and a non-EU country.

Non-EU collaboration

Some of the UK’s most important collaborators lies outside the EU, notably the USA (as the UK’s top research partner), Australia, China, Canada and Japan.

The UK is a member several international European organisation which are not part of the EU. These include the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) and EUREKA (an intergovernmental network helping small and medium sized enterprises to collaborate on R&D across borders to bring innovative ideas to market).

Brexit and Vets

Since the referendum decision on 23rd June 2016 we have been actively compiling briefing materials relating to the challenges and opportunities presented  leaving the EU. Below we have listed are a collection of documents which we consider to be helpful resources for veterinarians, parliamentarians and the media in assessing the impact of Brexit on veterinarians and on matters concerning animal health and welfare.

To add a new document to this list or to report a broken link please contact us.

We are particularly interested to receive further information on:

  • The number and proportions of non-UK EU nationals in different veterinary sectors
  • The relative UK economic size of the veterinary profession
  • The economic value of domestic and international meat trade reliant on veterinary certification

Veterinary Policy Research Foundation cropped-vprf.jpg

Brexit Impacts – Veterinary Fact File – Last updated October 2016

Brexit and Veterinary Research  – Author: Lord Trees [commentary article published online by RCVS Knowledge]

Brexit and the Veterinary Workforce – Author: Lord Trees [article published in The House magazine and made available here with permission from the Editor]

Brexit and workforce – Author: Lord Trees, Blog article published by BVA


 Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons rcvs-logo2

Key policy documents:
RCVS: Guiding principles for a post-Brexit world 

Brexit and the veterinary profession: The Facts

RCVS Knowledge: Collection of Publications of Brexit and the Veterinary Profession

RCVS statements:
Government recognises impact of Brexit on veterinary profession
RCVS and BVA sent an open letter to PM regarding Brexit and EU vets
Statement on the outcome of the EU Referendum
Frequently asked questions on the impact of the EU Referendum


 British Veterinary Association download

Key policy documents:
Brexit and the Veterinary Profession
Principles for negotiating Brexit
EU referendum and the UK veterinary profession

BVA webpage: Brexit and the Veterinary Profession

BVA press releases:
Bringing vets and VNs together for a Brexit roundtable
BVA response to Prime Minister’s Brexit Speech
Vets vital to post-Brexit success, says BVA President at BVA’s London Dinner
Vets call for tighter controls for UK/EU pet travel
BVA urges UK governments to protect the status of vets and VNs in Brexit negotiations


hol

The House of Lords EU Select Committee is in the process of undertaking a series of inquiries examining the potential impacts of Brexit on different sectors. Relevant reports include:
Brexit: Options for Trade
Brexit: Environment and Climate Change
Brexit: Fisheries
Brexit: Agriculture (ongoing)


HoC Logo

Research briefings:
Animal welfare standards in farming after the UK leaves the EU – 19 January 2017
Live animal exports within the European Union – 06 January 2017
Brexit: impact across policy areas – 26 August 2016


hm-government-logo

Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union Animal Health and Welfare and Food Safety Report

White Paper setting out UK Government’s 12 principles guiding EU Exit – Feb 2017

Government’s 25 Year plan for food, farming and fisheries expected shortly


 Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rspca_logo_big

Brexit: an overview of animal welfare and the EU
Brexit: Farm animal welfare
Brexit: Replacing the CAP
Brexit: Opportunities for pet animal welfare


Animal Protection AgencyAPA logo

10 Point Plan for animal welfare as the United Kingdom exits from the European Union


National Office of Animal Health NOAH logo

EU exit policy statement

Brexit Barometer Report: Summer 2017


National Farmers Union nfu-logo

UK farming’s relationship with the EU
How farming can deliver for Britain post-Brexit


royalsociety_logo

The role of the EU in funding UK research
The role of the EU in international research collaboration and researcher mobility
The role of EU regulation and policy in governing UK research


Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association PFMA logo

Brexit Manifesto and Annual Report 2017

Brexit: A veterinary Fact File

In the wake of the referendum result and as parliamentary and international events continue to unfold we have been busy putting together a fact-file of information we feel is relevant to  veterinarians.

The document is available here and includes information relating to:

  1. EU legislation
  2. Workforce
  3. RCVS impacts
  4. Pharmaceuticals
  5. Surveillance and biosecurity
  6. Animal Welfare
  7. Food and farming
  8. Research

Facts have been drawn from a wide variety of sources (including HM Government, BVA, RCVSNOAH, NFU, RSPCA and The Royal Society).

Updates:
18 October 2016 – First published
24 October 2016 – Table added – HM Treasury: gross and net EU contributions