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Importation of breeding livestock could halt unless ‘essential’ funding provided

By Ben Mitchell, PA

The importation of livestock for breeding into the UK could be completely halted within months if the Government does not provide funding for a new animal border check as required after Brexit.

Currently breeding animals are allowed to continue to be brought into the country from the European Union until July 1 under a transition period set up by the UK government.

But Portsmouth International Port has warned that a lack of funding from the Government combined with bureaucracy means that the deadline of July 1 will not be met, even if the full funding was provided.

The port, owned by Portsmouth City Council, requested £32 million in funds but was only granted £17.1 million for essential schemes which it estimates will cost £22.3 million, leaving a £5.2 million shortfall.

In a report submitted to the local authority, the port states that it is the only facility in the country set up for veterinarians to approve the import of live animals to be used for breeding (not for slaughter).

The report states: “From start to finish, this has been a frustrating process and precious time is being eaten up. The grant was underfunded from the start and its application has been inadequate, inequitable and ponderous.”

It continues: “Meanwhile, an impasse or status exists in government, delays are mounting and contractors, who need to order materials, are advising that completion dates are becoming unrealistic.

“All of this will impact on United Kingdom trade, the efficiency and effectiveness of our port operation and the resilience of the United Kingdom import capacity.”

Mike Sellers, Portsmouth International Port’s director, said: “We have a critical role to make sure trade is not jeopardised when new border controls come into force, however we are far from having the funds to meet even the most basic requirements.

“Unless we proceed, at risk, the situation for trade would be severe and unsustainable when government import checks are in place. This has the ability to affect UK plc at a time when economic recovery is paramount.”

There are about 30,000 breeding animals – pigs, sheep and cattle – exported from the UK each year with a similar number imported.

A NFU spokeswoman said that trade from the UK had “effectively stopped” because the EU does not have a port equipped with a Border Control Post to handle livestock.

NFU chief livestock adviser John Royle said: “The trade of high-value, breeding animals is crucial for Britain’s livestock farmers and the current absence of Border Control Posts that allow this trade means it has been curtailed immediately.

“We believe it’s crucial this situation is rectified as soon as possible and investment in infrastructure is crucial to achieve that.

“Portsmouth is one of the most well-connected ports in the UK and is a good example of one of the ports, alongside Dover, that would be able to suitably support this important trade.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “Our ports play a vital role in helping trade flow in and out of the UK and we are making significant preparations to ensure that they will be ready for the new procedures coming in July, including via the £200 million Port Infrastructure Fund.

“Full border checks will be introduced from July 2021, and the requirement for new infrastructure is the basis on which the PIF grants have been awarded. We continue to work very closely with all ports that have been allocated funding on the delivery of their projects.”

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