On 1st November, NOAH held its Brexit conference, where the most up-to-date progress on regulatory issues, areas of collaboration, opportunities, and overall emotions towards the EU exit were discussed. Changes in the policies surrounding animal welfare are of great concern to vets, producers and welfare bodies alike, and it is of utmost importance that these changes are representative of the animal health sector in its entirety.
NOAH chief executive, Dawn Howard, began proceedings by pointing out the general feelings of unease toward national Brexit negotiations, but sensed that there is a more positive outlook closer to home: “At our own local level, there’s more positivity and confidence within the sector.”
The day’s key discussion areas included: animal welfare, public health and food production, research and development and innovation, bringing new products to market, post-licensing controls for the overall market, and trade and investment.
Regulatory and political context
Nigel Gibbens, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, began the morning session with an insight into ongoing preparations and described the sector’s responsibility for maintaining the UK’s status as a centre of excellence for animal welfare.
In a statement, he described the necessary steps to achieving this: “We have to ensure that the UK maintains its standards of animal health and welfare and its reputation – its brand – to make sure that we’re a force to be reckoned with globally, as we step out to deal and trade globally to a greater extent than we ever have before.”
Nigel spoke of the Withdrawal Bill and its progress to the House of Commons this month, stating that it will “provide certainty to our trading partners and certainty for you as businesses”. He went on to describe how continuing access to EU medicines is critical to maintaining animal health standards in the UK and is a priority in Brexit negotiations.
Peter Borriello, chief executive of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, offered some assurance for people concerned about decentralised and centralised marketing applications: “I’m going to say something that hasn’t been said anywhere else: any product which is in the UK as a medicine, that has a mutual recognition or a decentralised procedure marketing application, automatically has a national one. A centralised procedure has a slightly different approach in the EU market, but we are committed to ensuring that every single product through the centralised route, that has been approved to date, in the UK, will be a legal product from the day that we leave. Those products will remain available and will remain legal.”
Securing our future
In the final session, Julie Girling, MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, addressed the potential for Brexit to improve the UK’s status across the animal health sector. Julie said we must stop discussing maintenance as an achievement: “I keep hearing the phrase: ‘at least maintain animal welfare standards’ and people thinking that maintenance is going to be an achievement… It’s only useful if we get something out of it… that we’re not currently getting out of our relationship with the EU.
“I don’t mean to be downbeat – I think there are opportunities, but we need to look beyond the obvious to find added value issues. What I’d like to see is the government making real effort in industries to find added value of leaving the EU.”