The National Sheep Association (NSA) has expressed serious concern over the impact on the movement of breeding sheep and goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland following the announcement from P&O Ferries that it is making serious operational changes from today (Thursday, March 17).
In a statement made by the leading ferry company, responsible for most overseas movement of animals and goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and the biggest shipper of breeding sheep from Great Britain to Europe, it was said that there would be no future for the business without significant change to the way in which it operates.
It is not yet clear how these changes will be implemented, however, in the immediate term NSA fears this could create serious disruption to the movement of sheep and goods, and further delay any solutions to the absence of any live breeding animal trade across the English Channel.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “NSA recognises that P&O supports many industries, and the public too, but for a long time, the company has been the mainstay of shipping live breeding sheep between Britain and Europe, and between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“Brexit brought new controls for moving live animals into Europe and the fact there is no Border Control Post (BCP) with live animal facilities on the other side of the channel means British breeders have not been able to sustain what was a long standing and important trade for valuable UK livestock genetics. Negotiations are ongoing about establishing such a facility but today’s news from P&O is likely to create further uncertainty and delays.”
Mr Stocker continued: “The Northern Ireland protocols have allowed the continued movement of animals between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but have imposed serious extra controls resulting in many sheep farmers in Northern Ireland feeling ‘cast adrift’.
“It is not clear from the P&O statement what might happen immediately but this disruption will do nothing to allow farmers in Northern Ireland to integrate with the wider UK industry.
“We await further details and hope that solutions can be found to prevent any immediate or short term disruption, and to provide confidence for plans for a live animal BCP to progress in time for this years breeding sales this summer.”