Losing access to EU IT systems in the event of a no-deal Brexit will not increase animal disease risk in the UK, according to Defra’s chief vet, Christine Middlemiss.
Dr Middlemiss made the remarks when giving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee last week.
At the moment, the UK has access to the EU’s Animal Disease Notification System (ADNS), which provides early warning about contagious disease outbreaks.
But asked whether losing access to the ADNS would make the UK more vulnerable to the spread of animal disease, the chief vet said she was ‘confident’ the risk would not increase because officials would still have access to World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) systems.
“Currently, member states are notified of a disease outbreak through the ADNS and we also notify the OIE within 24 hours of something happening, and that is published across all OIE members,” Dr Middlemiss said.
“We will know [about any disease outbreaks] through the OIE system and we will know informally through the [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna] CITES network.”
The OIE notification system has a time lag of a few hours, compared to the ADNS which provides real-time information, but Dr Middlemiss did not believe this would make a material difference to the disease risk level.
She also pointed out there was a chance the UK could retain access to the ADNS even in a no-deal scenario.
“The Commission recently published their contingency plan talking about our approval as a third country and that is something I will be working with them in the next few weeks to understand, because some third countries do have access to some of the systems,” she said.
“Whether that will continue or not is still being discussed. I would hope I would be able to continue to have a relationship with my fellow EU chief veterinary officers and technical people in the Commission because of the way we trade.”