Businesses are at risk while the UK Government 'drags its heels' on measures to facilitate the movement of livestock.

In a stinging rebuke to Boris Johnson's preparedness for post-Brexit agri-food and livestock trade, the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has published a new report, 'Moving Animals Across Borders', suggesting that there is now an 'effective ban' on the export of live animals to the EU for breeding, despite continued imports of livestock inwards from Europe.

The EFRA committee also suggested there were 'ready solutions' for many of the problems threatening exporters' livelihoods, animal welfare and UK biosecurity, but the Government was taking a 'low-priority approach' to negotiations with the EU.

Committee chair Neil Parish MP, said: “British breeding stock is an important export – one that has shrunk to nothing while the Government drags its heels setting up the border controls the industry needs. Meanwhile, the systems required to identify equines, which already exist within the industry, have been overlooked, allowing an illegal and cruel trade in horse smuggling to flourish. These issues identify glaring holes in the Government's current systems.

"The solutions are evident and ready, but the Government seems unprepared to press go. It must now demonstrate its willingness to accept the scale of the problems, and act with urgency to address the threats to British businesses, animal welfare and biosecurity."

Noting the 'significant economic benefits' provided to the UK by the equine industry, the Committee expressed concern regarding reduced movement of horses between Britain, Ireland, and France, and called for a European-wide agreement on ‘high health status’ horses to allow for their expedited movement.

The report called on the UK Government to:

• Work with the EU to establish border control posts capable of processing live animals as a matter of urgency, thereby allowing renewed exportation of livestock to the EU;

• Support and bolster a network of small and medium abattoirs spread geographically around the UK. The Report finds a 'direct link' between the Government's current policy of limiting journey times for animals transported to slaughter, and the need for a network of small and medium abattoirs;

• Investigate the scale and causes of horse smuggling as it is thought there are a considerable number of horses being illicitly moved out of the UK;

• Create an easy to use, digital-by-design equine identification system. This should form the basis of the Government's forthcoming consultation on horse identification;

• Regain UK access to the EU's Animal Disease Notification System, allowing easier monitoring of animal diseases.