Livestock Movement

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 22 April 2024.

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Photo of Áine Murphy Áine Murphy Sinn Féin 2:45, 22 April 2024

1. Ms Á Murphy asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs what the timescale is for the resumption of livestock movement to and from Great Britain. (AQO 309/22-27)

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance

As Members will be aware, as a result of confirmed cases of bluetongue virus serotype 3 in England, the trade in all live ruminants from Great Britain to Northern Ireland has been restricted. The area in the question asked falls under the direction and control of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as provided for in regulation 3 of the Windsor Framework (Implementation) Regulations 2024. There are 19 areas that fall under the direction and control of the Secretary of State, and I intend to lodge more details about those in the Assembly Library and also to publish them on the Assembly website.

Photo of Áine Murphy Áine Murphy Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for his answer. I know that this is a deeply frustrating and, indeed, expensive time for farmers who have been hit by those restrictions. Minister, are you aware of any possible solutions that are being developed by DEFRA to allow for the resumption of livestock exports from GB to the North?

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance

I thank the Member for her question. I am not aware of anything further that DEFRA is considering, but I hear from many people in the industry that there is a real concern to ensure that bluetongue does not come into Northern Ireland. That is the first focus among people here from a farming background.

Photo of Tom Elliott Tom Elliott UUP

If the bluetongue issue is resolved, what is to stop livestock movements from GB to Northern Ireland through use of the 15-day standstill rule at an export centre?

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance

I thank the Member for his question. Again, I must outline to Members how this falls under the direction and control of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under the Windsor Framework (Implementation) Regulations 2024. He is the key person involved, so to do that would require him to apply for regionalisation.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

What representations has the Minister of Agriculture in Northern Ireland made to DEFRA about the matter? Indeed, has the Secretary of State issued any directions under the relevant implementation regulations? Is it not abundantly absurd that cattle can be brought from France through Great Britain to Northern Ireland unimpeded but that cattle cannot be brought from GB to Northern Ireland?

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance

I thank the Member for his question. There are three parts to it, and the key issue is whether the Secretary of State has issued a direction to civil servants. I am not aware that any direction has been given, but, for further information, I advise the Member to follow up with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. A key issue around the matter relates to the costs arising from it and whether compensation is forthcoming. I am not aware whether DEFRA has been considering that. I know that it is an issue of concern; it is a concern for me.