A leading campaign group has called on the Government to ensure its new Great Repeal Bill protects EU standards on farm antibiotic use.
The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics made the plea as Ministers introduced the legislation – renamed the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – to parliament today.
The Bill is designed to prevent sudden, unexpected changes in law on Brexit day by copying and pasting EU rules on to the UK statute book.
It will also create temporary powers to amend laws which would no longer operate properly outside the EU because they make reference to European institutions.
Coilin Nunan from the alliance said: “Scientists and medics are warning we face a post-antibiotic era unless we take urgent action to restrict and reduce antibiotic use in both human and veterinary medicine.
“The Government should be moving without further delay to ban routine preventative farm antibiotic use, just as several other European countries have already done.
“Any attempt to use Brexit and the Repeal Bill as a backdoor means to avoiding implementation of the highest standards would be hugely irresponsible in an era of superbugs.”
Farming more widely is set to be a key battleground as the Bill passes through parliament.
The shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer MP, has said Labour is ‘putting the Government on notice’ it may vote against the Bill, and possible weakening of environmental protections are top of the party’s agenda.
Wakefield Labour MP Mary Creagh, who has just been re-elected chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, has already called for an Environmental Protection Act to be introduced after Brexit.
She said: “Changes from Brexit could put our countryside, farming and wildlife at risk.
“Protections for Britain’s wildlife and special places currently guaranteed under European law could end up as zombie legislation even with the Great Repeal Bill.”
Another area MPs are preparing for battle on is devolution, with the SNP threatening to vote against the Bill unless Scotland is given full control over future agricultural and rural policy – a move Farming Minister George Eustice has so far refused.
Brexit Secretary David Davis has also confirmed the Bill will be put before the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly for ‘legislative consent’.
Despite seeking agreement, the UK Government has the power to enforce the Bill without the consent of the devolved nations as the process holds no legal weight.