Concerns lack of border checks on EU meat puts UK at risk of animal diseases

A farmer says the lack of border checks on meat coming into the UK is deeply worrying, as it could be putting the country at risk of diseases like foot and mouth.

Colin Millichap, a sheep farmer from Brecon, thinks the situation is an "unfair playing field" with British farmers having to fill in many forms to export meat to the continent, unlike their EU counterparts exporting to the UK.

He believes that has caused a 17% drop in exports of Welsh lamb to the European Union.

"Every place has now got to have the correct forms for each drop off, so it's not just doubling the paperwork it could be quadrupling it or add as much as ten times the paperwork, which we didn't have any before", he told ITV Wales' current affairs programme Sharp End.

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New import checks on EU food products were scheduled to begin in July but the UK Government has announced that will be pushed back to the end of next year.

It is the fourth time it has delayed introducing import checks since the UK left the EU.

For farmers across Wales, border controls on their products are also increasing costs, and that is on top of the price increases for feed and fertilisers.

According to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, getting energy prices down will help farmers with those costs in particular, something he discussed on a visit to a honey factory in Newtown last week.

But for Colin, the lack of clarity on when import checks will be imposed on EU products coming into the country is very frustrating.

"We were promised a bonfire of regulations, we were told we would have control of our borders, no I don't think it's what anybody wanted.

"They [the government] have had six years, that is a lifetime in parliament to have done something and they've not progressed at all.

"There's a lot going on but they've had time to do this, if they'd had a few less parties and concentrated on the work we may have got a bit further on.

"It's unfair competition on us and we don't know what's coming in and we don't know what standards are like. It's just so irritating."

Last month the Brexit Opportunities Minister, Jacob Rees Mogg said if the UK Government had gone ahead with the checks in July, "it would have been an act of self harm, it would have increased costs for people and we're trying to reduce costs."

Aled Jones, from the Welsh branch of the National Farming Union, agrees with Colin that without border checks, the UK is putting itself at risk.

"We've got to be vigilant, there are pig diseases as well which we could easily bring in if the checks are not there, so we're putting ourselves in a very dangerous position and they don't seem to see that.

"We cannot continue with these delays. If we do get a disease outbreak here in the UK, that's it then, it will decimate our markets.

"We're an island nation and if it gets in it will be very difficult and we won't want to see ourselves go through a foot and mouth or a swine fever pandemic again. These things will be horrendous for the industry."

See more on this story on Sharp End on Monday, May 23 at 22:45 on ITV Wales. You can also catch-up here.