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What will animal health look like post-Brexit?

There were mixed emotions at the 2018 NOAH Brexit Conference as the industry gathered to discuss developments

27 December 2018, at 10:31am

The conference, entitled “Brexit and beyond: a strong future in animal health”, was hosted by the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) on 30 October 2018. The event brought together people from the animal health industry to discuss the risks and opportunities that Brexit may bring for the UK. There continues to be a lack of clarity around animal health policy and regulation, leaving many UK businesses sceptical of their future in the marketplace.

Progress in 2018

It is NOAH’s chief aim to ensure that UK businesses continue to operate and thrive beyond EU Exit, according to Dawn Howard, Chief Executive of NOAH, who opened the conference with an update on the progress to date.

“When the Chequers paper was published, we were pleasantly surprised to see that there was quite a lot of reference in there to animal medicine and animal health, which is something we might not have seen had we not been so active in lobbying,” Dawn said.

The EU withdrawal agreement made specific reference to:

  • Future participation in the EMA
  • A common rulebook for many animal health areas, including medicines
  • Access to relevant and critical IT systems
  • Ensuring public routes for animal and human medicine remain available
  • Provisions of human and animal medicines to reflect their unique status
  • Release of individual batches of medicines by a qualified person based in the UK or EU
  • The roles of qualified persons in pharmacovigilance

“Government has been running their no-deal planning, which includes over 100 technical notices covering all aspects of our future outside of the EU: finance, intellectual property and animal health, for example,” Dawn continued.

“Our own veterinary medicines notices were published on 24 September 2018 and they cover a range of issues, including registration of veterinary medicines, accessing animal medicines IT systems, future regulation, importing animals and animal products and moving animals abroad. “The proposed Agriculture Bill was also published in September and, again, we were pleased to see specific mention of potential proposals to support animal health and welfare moving forward. This said, we were expecting to see a more environmental-heavy document on policy considering the preceding emphasis on a green Brexit.”

Contingency planning for “no deal”

Many companies began contingency planning immediately after the result of the referendum to ensure the smooth continuation of business and maintain product availability.

This year, NOAH carried out a number of surveys to assess the preparedness of their member companies. The results of these surveys indicated that up to 20 percent of UK products may face availability issues post-Brexit, with the primary concerns being customs delays and continuation of dual-package labelling.

Survey respondents identified that there will be financial impacts on their businesses, but much of this is currently unknown: tariffs, logistics and imported raw material costs, for example, are yet to be finalised.

Many respondents reported that they are planning additional product stockholding; however, 80 percent anticipate problems with moving their products into the UK. “An increasing proportion of companies are preparing for a hard Brexit,” reported Dawn Howard.

What’s happening in Europe?

Rick Clayton, Technical Director at AnimalhealthEurope, provided an update on consultations in Europe and discussed the results of the AnimalhealthEurope corporate survey, which indicated that it will not be possible by 29 March 2019 for all companies to be compliant in everything.

Major concerns included the need for repeat testing on EU soil, the impact on availability of products and interruption of distribution chains due to border restrictions and multilingual packaging. This is particularly critical for vaccines with very short shelf lives that could be subject to delays at the border.

The Brexit Barometer

This quarter’s NOAH Brexit Barometer indicates clearly that one of the greatest concerns for animal health industry representatives continues to be trade and bringing products to market. Post-Brexit animal health and welfare and research and development, on the other hand, received a more positive appraisal. This said, the general feeling towards the post-Brexit future was that of pessimism and frustration as many questions remain unanswered.