In Depth

What Brexit means for animals

UK wildlife at greater risk thanks to post-Brexit regulation gaps, claim charities

British wildlife is at greater risk after Brexit because of gaps in environmental protection regulations, a new report has found.

The UK faces losing regulations that prevent hedgerows being cut during nesting season and bans the use of pesticides in certain areas. These are some of the findings of a new study, jointly commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and WWF.

So what will Brexit mean for wildlife in the UK?

Wildlife

A new Agriculture Bill, being debated in the Commons today, will end payments to farmers based on the amount of land farmed, and instead pay them to protect wildlife and the environment, and store carbon.

While the agricultural industry has largely welcomed the move, critics say the new bill does not go far enough, says The Guardian. There is concern that as farmers lose payments under the EU common agricultural policy, protective regulations could also fall away.

Ellie Brodie, from The Wildlife Trusts, said: “We’re really concerned that the Agriculture Bill does not contain the regulation that’s so desperately needed and nature will continue to take the rap.

“Gaps must be filled and enforcement must be strengthened if we’re to address the nature crisis and climate emergency.”

And Debbie Tripley, of the WWF, said: “Unless the government starts plugging the gaps left by EU regulation, our soils, hedgerows and the wildlife that depends on them are at risk.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the government would “continue to be a world leader on the environment” after Brexit, adding “both the Agriculture Bill and the Environment Bill are a crucial part of that.

“We will not lower the exceptionally high environmental standards we already hold. In fact, leaving the EU means we can transform British agriculture to reward farmers for enhancing the environment, tackling climate change and protecting our wildlife for future generations,” said the spokesperson.

Fish

The government has pledged that all fish stocks in UK waters will be fished at sustainable levels after Brexit.

The new Fisheries Bill will give the UK power to operate as an independent coastal state after Brexit, and guarantees it will quit the EU common fisheries policy in December, says the BBC.

Fishing is likely to be a key area of contention in trade talks between the UK and the EU 27, as the UK leaves the common fisheries policy and EU fisheries lose automatic right of access to British waters.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, said the UK “may have to make concessions in areas like fishing in order to get concessions from us in areas like financial services”.

But Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said the new Fisheries Bill “takes back control of our waters” and would enable the UK “to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for our coastal communities, whilst securing the long-term health of British fisheries”.

The prime minister said in a speech on Monday that British fishing grounds will be “first and foremost for British boats”.

Pets

While the UK remains in the “transition period” in 2020, owners will be able to travel to EU countries with their pets using UK-issued EU pet passports.

From 1 January 2021, the UK will be a “third country” and will fall into one of three categories designated by the EU Pet Travel Scheme: unlisted, part 1 listed, or part 2 listed.

The UK will have to apply to the European Commission to be listed. If it is an unlisted country, the UK government website lists the steps that owners must take:

  1. You must have your dog, cat or ferret microchipped and vaccinated against rabies
  2. Your pet must have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after its last rabies vaccination. (whether that’s a booster or initial vaccination) Your vet may recommend a booster rabies vaccination before this test.
  3. Your pet’s blood sample will be sent to a to an EU-approved blood testing laboratory
  4. Wait 3 months from the date the successful blood sample was taken before you can travel.
  5. The vet must give you a copy of the test results and enter the day the blood sample was taken in an animal health certificate (AHC).

Your pet must have an AHC issued no more than 10 days before travel, and it must be signed by an official vet. To get an AHC, you will need your pet’s vaccination history, its microchipping date, and a successful rabies antibody blood test result.

On arrival in the EU, owners and pets will need to go through a designated travellers’ point of entry (TPE). At the TPE, you may need to present proof of your pet’s microchip, its rabies vaccination, successful blood test results, tapeworm treatment, and your pet’s health certificate.

If the UK becomes part 1 listed, it will operate under similar rules as EU member states. You’ll need a pet passport and you must have your pet microchipped and vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before travel.

If the UK becomes part 2 listed, owners should follow the procedure for part 1 listed, but will also need an AHC and may be required to provide more proof at a TPE.

Farm animals

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has written to Boris Johnson demanding “more than just verbal assurances to ensure our standards are properly safeguarded”.

In an open letter to the prime minister, a coalition of 60 farming, environmental, animal welfare and public health organisations says British farming can become a world leader.

“Brexit can be a catalyst for UK farming not just to be the envy of the world, but to provide gold-standard model for high standard, high quality, sustainable food production,” reads the letter, which was sent last weekend.

The EU agri-food chain – which includes organisations such Copa-Cogeca, CELCAA and FoodDrinkEurope – has called for a Brexit deal that includes an FTA with zero tariffs and quantitative restrictions between the EU and the UK, reports food trade website Food Ingredients First.

In a speech on Monday morning, Johnson said that the UK would not enter into any “race to the bottom” by cutting regulations to make the country more competitive against the EU.

The prime minister said that the UK often has more stringent rules than the bloc or other member states, citing the UK’s plan to ban the export of live animals for slaughter.

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