The laws of unintended consequence have arrived big style in the run up to Brexit. The lucrative trade in breeding sheep and ewe lambs, in particular going from Scotland and the North of England to Northern Ireland, hangs in the balance because of the nuances of the Brexit deal already agreed regarding sheep movements.

It’s come to light – and, it has to be said, in a kind of Johnny-come-lately fashion – that as Northern Ireland is to be deemed as part of Europe in the ‘grand plan’, then the rules will change and we will have, in effect, a hard Border with Northern Ireland, at least in respect of livestock trading.

The traditional hill breeds, in particular, will be hit as the UK mainland has long been a source of seedstock for the likes of Blackface and Swaledale restocking on the hills of Ulster and Eire. It had become traditional that ewe lambs purchased in the autumn were wintered well on the likes of dairy farms on this side of the water, before being shipped as hoggs to Ulster (and beyond).

That now cannot happen because of the requirement for testing and accreditation for the likes of maedi visna and scrapie monitoring. Both these health regimes require a long lead in time, not the least of which also involves great expense, and so the laws of unintended consequences have really caught up with quite a few breeds.

The quandary is: Do those who’ve bought the likes of ewe lambs this year get them over in a rush before the New Year?; or do they pin their hopes on some sort of reprieve in the form of a derogation to the rules which would allow a ‘transition’ period. Either way, it’s a serious problem.

Similarly, the hill breeds have relied very much on the Irish trade underpinning their lucrative in-lamb sales at the beginning of the year and again, it is unclear how these can proceed as per usual.

There is also an unintended consequence for breed societies based in the UK which were used by breeders of various breeds in the South of Ireland as their administrators. Again, that has been shown to be unacceptable by the EU legislators, which will remove an income stream for them – though for some societies more than others.

It’s worrying that this has only come to light really in the last two weeks and it begs the question: What other obstacles lie in wait for the UK on January 1 when Brexit really does happen?

We already know of some, like tariffs on various commodities, like grain and potatoes, but again the fear is that the unintended consequences have yet to surface. Which, of course, is all the more reason why we really must have some form of ‘deal’ on exit.