NSA expresses outrage at extreme threat to Northern Ireland sheep sector

18th December 2020

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is outraged by the situation faced by sheep breeders in Northern Ireland (NI) and those on the UK mainland who are involved in mainland/NI breeding stock trade.

Each year between 9000 and 18,000 sheep of high value are moved between NI and mainland Great Britain, some being multi-thousand pounds rams of high genetic value. On an industry scale this may be considered small but for individuals affected the restrictions on movements to be imposed from 1st January will be life changing.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker comments: “Since Brexit negotiations began there has always been a commitment, and it has always been NSA’s understanding, there would be ‘free and frictionless’ trade between GB and NI. The release of a NI command paper on 10th December saw this commitment broken and in the world of sheep farming the reality is that NI has been cast adrift. Under the new legislation all movements of live animals between GB and NI are to be classified as an EU movement, creating catastrophic consequences for many of our pedigree breeders and those trading in commercial breeding animals on both sides of the water.”

Proposed bureaucracy will essentially see an end to the movement of live breeding sheep come the 1st of Jan as they will not meet EU export health or residency requirements.

Phil continues: “It’s not only live animal sales’ from GB to NI that will be hindered. Further EU sanctions mean pedigree stock travelling from NI to GB for sales and shows will also fall foul to the EU legislation due to in excess of a six month residency requirement for any stock wishing to return to NI. Unfortunately, DAERA have their hands tied and our ‘free and frictionless’ trade with NI rests with further negotiations between UK government and the EU for a potential derogation, exemption, or physical change to EU legislation. NSA and other industry bodies are working hard to resolve these issues (along with many of the other non-tariff barriers as a consequence of Brexit) but it looks increasingly unlikely that any decisions will now be made before 1st Jan.”

NSA Northern Ireland Development Officer Edward Adamson says: “When NI buyers bought ewe lambs in GB in the autumn these new rules had not been made public and they are now caught in a position with lambs awaiting movement to NI in the new year but rules that will now prohibit this happening. This could lead to an animal welfare problem as those selling those lambs will need to move them off of their farms. Purchasers will have already paid for the lambs but this situation leaves them devalued causing extreme anxiety and distress for some. For some smaller farms, that have built up their businesses selling elite pedigree sheep and genetics these rules could see the collapse of their businesses and livelihood”.

NSA Scottish Region Chair Jen Craig comments: “The breeding sheep trade between NI and Scotland is incredibly important to many individual businesses and breed societies on both sides of the water. The current protocols are going to have a huge effect and need to be addressed as a matter of urgency”. 

Helen Roberts, NSA Cymru/Wales Development Officer adds: “I know this will affect some of Welsh pedigree breeders who send and receive animals to and from Northern Ireland. It is trade that has been built up over years to improve breeds on both sides of the water and we need to find a way to continue this so a healthy and beneficial genetic pool is maintained keeping UK sheep breeding at the top of the tree”.

For more information on how the change in legislation will affect trade between Northern Ireland and the GB mainland click here.