‘Alarming’ uncertainty over veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland

Supplies of half of all veterinary drugs at risk due to restrictions on importing medicines from Britain

There will be “alarming” uncertainty over the availability of veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland if post-Brexit rules are enforced within weeks, a group of Westminster MPs has warned.

The House of Commons European scrutiny committee has welcomed efforts by the British Government to lobby the European Commission for a “short-term solution” before the grace period ends on December 31st.

Half of veterinary medicines supplied to the North could be at risk under Northern Ireland Protocol EU regulations governing the supply chain, with restrictions placed on imported medicines from Britain.

Drugs affected include those for cardiovascular conditions, anaesthetics and vaccines, including those that prevent salmonella and E.coli.


In a report published on Tuesday, the committee said it had written to the UK Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, Richard Benyon, seeking clarity on the issue.

The MPs said: “The full application of the new rules to NI would leave potentially half of all veterinary medicines for a variety of animals and livestock facing discontinuation in NI.

“The UK Government has consequently said that while negotiations on the implementation of the NI Protocol continue, it does not intend to apply [the regulation] including new transitional arrangements for labelling and packaging proposed by the Commission.

“It is alarming that such uncertainty hangs over the availability of veterinary medicines on the Northern Ireland market within a matter of weeks, with the current grace period coming to an end on December 31st 2022.

“We are pleased that the Government is continuing to press the European Commission to find a solution and note that the UK is ready to take unilateral action if necessary. We trust, however, that at least a short-term solution can be identified before December 31st pending a longer-term resolution to the issue.”

In July, the Westminster scrutiny group wrote to the UK Government expressing “profound concerns” about the impact of the post-Brexit trade deal on animal health.

“The EU’s readiness to amend its rules on human medicines to take into account supply chains between GB and Northern Ireland – as well as Cyprus, Ireland and Malta – but not to amend its rules on veterinary medicines is frustrating.”

On Tuesday, the committee said it had received a response from Mr Benyon reiterating the UK’s preference “to resolve the issues through negotiation”.

“As such, the Foreign Secretary and vice-president Maroš Šefčovič are in regular contact and have reiterated their shared commitment to exploring potential solutions on this issue. If no solution is reached, however, the Government reserves its right to take action to ensure that animals in NI can continue to access the veterinary medicines and vaccines they need.”

The concerns arise five months after a House of Lords report concluded that the protocol has created a “feast or famine” economy in Northern Ireland, with some businesses struggling while others thrive.

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham is Northern Correspondent of The Irish Times