Vets warn delay to post-Brexit checks will ‘open door to African Swine Fever’ and other diseases

‘Deeply misguided’ to ‘weaken this layer of protection for both animal and public health’, government told

Dover tailbacks

A fresh delay to post-Brexit checks on EU imports will open the door to African Swine Fever and “wreak havoc” on disease prevention, vets are warning.

The threatened deferral of promised controls – revealed by The Independent – has been attacked for weakening the “first line of defence of biosecurity” at the UK’s borders.

“It will be the fourth delay and open the door even further to the potential incursion of African Swine Fever, which is spreading rapidly,” the British Veterinary Association warned.

James Russell, the BVA’s senior vice president, said it’s work had become even more vital since Brexit shut the UK out of the EU’s biosecurity and assurance systems.

“It would be deeply misguided to push back the need for these vital checks even further and in so doing weaken this layer of protection for both animal and public health,” he told ministers.

The comments come after No 10 revealed it is exploring a further delay to the checks – promised for July – on consignments from the EU of products of animal and plant origin.

The rethink is being considered because of growing alarm that they will add to the growing cost of living crisis, by imposing an estimated £1bn to the costs of cross-Channel trade.

Fears have also been raised that EU suppliers will choose to shun the UK as the mountain of Brexit red tape grows, leading to some foods disappearing from shop and further price hikes.

Now the BVA has raised the alarm over disease outbreaks, including African Swine Fever which affects all pigs and which is common in many EU countries. It does not affect humans, but is spread by them.

Mr Russell called the disease “devastating”, adding: “If this extension is allowed to go ahead it will be the fourth delay.

“Official veterinarians working at the border act as the country’s first line of defence of biosecurity, and we feel it would be deeply misguided to push back the need for these vital checks.”

He said his profession also needed “certainty”, warning: “Given the ongoing capacity challenges in the workforce it’s really important that we can prepare and allocate resource where it’s most needed.”

The government is also risking a legal challenge under World Trade Organisation rules, if it continues to treat EU imports more preferably than those from the rest of the world.

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