The South Down MLA said without an agreement between the EU and UK, disruption to the flow of veterinary medicines will have a negative impact on animal welfare.
The current grace period for veterinary medicines applies until December 31, with restrictions then applied on the import into the EU and Northern Ireland of medicines from Great Britain. This in turn could lead to potentially half of all veterinary medicines for a variety of animals and livestock facing discontinuation in NI.
In April, the EU changed its laws to guarantee the supply of human medicines from GB to NI, providing a longer-term solution to potential concerns around availability, however, this did not extend to veterinary medicines.
“These issues are a direct result of the hard Brexit pursued and forced upon us by the Conservative Party and the DUP,” said Mr Brown.
“Veterinary medicines and a wider veterinary agreement needed to be a key priority of the withdrawal agreement, however, it was overlooked. This is despite my party colleagues, such as Stephen Farry MP, consistently raising these issues directly with the EU and UK. There has been a lot of wasted time, especially from the Conservatives, that could have been used to come to an agreement.
“We are now in a situation where there are serious concerns for animal welfare in Northern Ireland if the grace period ends without a negotiated solution. I am constantly talking to vets and farmers worried about what medicines will be available for them to use. But it is clear what won’t solve this is the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill – unilateral action isn’t the answer and will only cause further economic and legal issues. What we need is more time to allow continued, pragmatic negotiations to take place.
“We have seen with the human medicines solution the EU is willing to recognise issues with the Protocol and come to an agreement, if the UK Government approaches the discussion in good faith. We now need them to recognise overlooking veterinary medicines was a mistake and a poor reflection of EU’s otherwise strong record on animal welfare. We need to put aside politics and recognise this is about the health and well-being of farm animals and pets.
“It is a real shame the DUP continues to waste time shouting from the sidelines about Protocol issues, while boycotting the Assembly and Executive, which could collectively call for negotiated solutions.”