UK to maintain SPS regulatory alignment with EU for nine months in no deal

Movement of animals in Ireland will not be restricted on Border or subject to veterinary checks for nine months from UK departure

Concerns by Irish farmers about the impact of a no-deal Brexit have been temporarily allayed by a decision by the UK authorities to maintain SPS regulatory alignment with the EU for nine months in the event of no-deal. The European Commission was notified on Tuesday by the UK.

The move to keep in step with EU sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules will mean that the movement of animals across the island of Ireland will not have to be restricted on the Border or subject to special veterinary checks for nine months from the UK departure.

Exporters will also not be required to register for approved status as the control of animal movements and health will be monitored through a special EU-wide database to which the UK will maintain access.

Although the EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday night was set to give the UK an extension on its Brexit negotiating timeframe, and the prospect of a disorderly no-deal Brexit on Friday has been put back, leaders were determined to step up "preparedness" planning for a no-deal scenario. That is still regarded as a dangerous likelihood within months as there remains little confidence that British prime minister Theresa May can win a majority for a deal.


A no-deal Brexit would make the UK a third country, and subject to strict export controls across the board. Those in place for animal and food products are particularly demanding, necessitating controls and inspections on borders.

The notification by the UK of its intention to maintain alignment with EU rules mirrors a declared intention by the EU to do likewise – the reciprocation, unilaterally announced by each side, should effectively mean no change in the regimes in both the EU and UK.

Live animals

The move also means that there will not have to be checks between the UK and continental Europe. On Wednesday leaders from six "Channel" EU states, including Ireland, met in Brussels ahead of the summit to discuss challenges of no-deal planning, including the problem of accommodating live animals in the ports of Rotterdam and Calais, where there are inadequate storage facilities for SPS inspections.

Like Ireland, Belgium, host of the meeting, wants to seek commission support for checks away from points of entry. EU rules refer to the need for checks to be carried out close to the point of entry.

The UK’s willingness to maintain alignment in a no-deal situation will take immediate pressure off the issue.

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times