Motion to Approve
That the Regulations laid before the House on 5 April be approved.
Relevant document: 24th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Sub-Committee B)
My Lords, these instruments relate to biosecurity in Northern Ireland. Given their interconnection and for the convenience of your Lordships, they have been grouped together to enable co-ordinated scrutiny. They relate to trade in animals and related products, plant health, seeds and potatoes, and extend to Northern Ireland only.
The first two instruments, relating to trade and plant health, are among a small number of measures that have been made under the urgent procedure. Due to the importance of having them in place for exit—initially, 29 March and then 12 April—the timeframe did not permit us to lay them via the normal route. It was of the utmost importance that we were in a position to assure the European Commission that we had a complete statute book in advance of its consideration of the UK’s application for third-country listed status in the event of exit.
The third instrument, the Animal Health, Seed Potatoes and Food (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, was debated in the House of Commons on 23 April under the affirmative procedure. As it does not contain legislative amendments that would be critically needed to be in operation on exit day, it has not been subject to the urgent procedure.
These three statutory instruments largely mirror the amendments contained in instruments amending the corresponding legislation for Great Britain, which have already been considered by your Lordships. As with those instruments, the amendments presented today are technical and designed to ensure continued operability of legislation.
On checks on imports from the EU, these instruments do not introduce any change of policy and, in particular, do not impose any additional regulatory controls on imports from the EU, including those entering Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland. Importantly, they recognise that biosecurity risks associated with animals, animal products, plants and plant products from the EU will not change immediately on exit. They do not introduce any checks on the Northern Ireland border.
However, to ensure compliance with international obligations, the relevant instrument provides for some operational changes to the import arrangements for regulated plant and plant product materials. In essence, this would mean that the need for an EU passport for these regulated commodities would be replaced with the relevant certificate required under international law. As such, it is not expected that this would place an additional burden on industry. Controls on plants and plant products moving into Northern Ireland from the EU that do not currently require an EU plant passport would not change.
On checks on direct imports from non-EU countries, the same rigorous import controls that are currently applied in respect of animals, plants and associated products which enter Northern Ireland directly from a country outside the EU will continue.
On checks on imports from non-EU countries that transit the EU, all three instruments provide that there is no gap in controls in relation to animals, animal products, and plant and plant products that would present a risk to Northern Ireland’s biosecurity. The instruments debated do not—I emphasise “not”—in any way adversely impinge on the established partnership arrangements on animal and plant health matters on the island of Ireland, which is recognised as a single epidemiological unit. The noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, Lady Bakewell and Lady Parminter, and I have all been fortunate enough to have exchanges with Northern Ireland officials from DAERA. I can safely say that they are clear that these measures are needed in terms of Northern Ireland’s responsibilities for the whole island.
The Trade in Animals and Related Products (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 amend Northern Ireland legislation relating to imports, transit through the EU of live animals, including horses, animal products, reproductive material used for animal breeding and bees. They also amend legislation regarding the movement of pet animals, which is clearly an important issue in Northern Ireland given the land border.
The instrument makes necessary technical corrections to the Trade in Animals and Related Products Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011, a key piece of Northern Ireland legislation that sets out requirements for trade in live animals and genetic material with the EU and imports of animals and animal products from outside the EU. This instrument makes no policy changes to the 2011 regulations. It makes technical changes: for example, it replaces references to “EU” with references to “UK” and “legislation of the EU” with “retained EU law” where appropriate. It also removes provisions which would be inappropriate to retain following exit without an agreement. These include references to the tripartite agreement on movements of horses, which will cease to have effect here on exit, and provisions which stipulate EU requirements for the intra-Community movement of animals and genetic material and provide for the automatic circulation in the UK of animals and products that have cleared EU border inspection posts. It also provides for the transfer of the power to approve border inspection posts in Northern Ireland from the European Commission to Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. This is achieved by amending the existing definition of a border inspection post in the 2011 regulations. Overall, this instrument ensures that the veterinary controls and other import conditions that the 2011 regulations provide can continue to operate with the necessary protections for animal and public health.
Furthermore, this instrument makes the changes needed to ensure the operability of two pieces of legislation that regulate the non-commercial movement of pet animals into Northern Ireland. These include amendments to the term “another Member state” and the removal of a provision which expressly provides that representatives of the European Commission can attend DAERA inspections. It also ensures that UK air carriers, as well as Union carriers, can land recognised assistance dogs following exit. This instrument also provides the necessary technical corrections to other Northern Ireland trade-related legislation which addresses references to terms such as “another Member state” and “intra-Community” or “intra-area trade”.
I now turn to the Plant Health (Amendment) (EU Exit) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2019. This instrument provides for some operational changes for businesses arising from the importation of third-country goods transiting the EU. They are necessary to ensure that biosecurity is maintained. First, regulated plant material currently entering Northern Ireland from the EU requires an EU plant passport. The instrument will replace this after exit with a phytosanitary certificate issued by the official national plant protection organisation, in line with international obligations. Therefore, this does not place an additional burden on businesses. These consignments must be pre-notified to the relevant plant health authority. For direct imports into Northern Ireland, importers must register with the UK plant health authority responsible for the point of entry.
In order to maintain the flow of goods, this regulated plant material from the EU will not be subject to checks at the border. However, remote documentary checks will be undertaken in alignment with UK plant health authorities. Secondly, direct imports of plants and plant products from non-EU countries that transit through the EU and have not been checked and cleared in the EU will require statutory three days’ pre-notification to DAERA as well as documentary checks and inspections at approved places of inspection within Northern Ireland. This instrument also extends the application of an existing offence to non-compliance with the additional operational import requirements that will arise should the UK leave without an agreement.
I now turn to the Animal Health, Seed Potatoes and Food (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. This instrument amends five pieces of Northern Ireland legislation. First, it makes minor and technical operability changes to three pieces of legislation relating to the control of salmonella in poultry, broilers and turkeys. Secondly, it amends beef and veal labelling-related legislation to ensure operability following exit. Thirdly, it amends EU references in the Seed Potato Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 and provides for a one-year interim period during which EU seed potatoes will continue to be recognised for production and marketing in Northern Ireland to ensure continuity of supplies of seed potatoes.
Biosecurity and trade are of significant importance to Northern Ireland and the wider UK economy. While operating within a UK framework, biosecurity in plant and animal health will remain essential to the recognition of the island of Ireland as a single epidemiological unit. This will continue to secure the vital close co-operation between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland officials on a wide range of trade, disease and biosecurity matters.
I have been privileged to attend and chair some of the British-Irish Council meetings set up as part of the Good Friday arrangements, where the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the three other parts of the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey all meet to discuss these matters, biosecurity, invasive species and their impacts—in fact, for the heightened recognition of the latter, Invasive Species week will be taking place across all those countries and jurisdictions. I thought it important to conclude these remarks on that, as Defra is undertaking these regulations on behalf of Northern Ireland because of the lack of an Executive there. It is important to record firmly that this is an area where there is established and continuing close collaboration. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have just one question for my noble friend. In referring to the trade in animals and related products regulations, he mentioned that the tripartite agreement will cease, which is absolutely true. He also mentioned that this first statutory instrument will refer to the movement of horses between Northern Ireland and southern Ireland. That begs the question of the status of the tripartite agreement. Are we expecting a statutory instrument that will replace it as regards movement of racehorses and other horses between France, Britain and Ireland? This is obviously a matter of great concern among the racing community, and we now have the time to negotiate an agreement. What form will it take? Will it come before the House?
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction. As he said, we have discussed a number of these issues on previous SIs, looking at them in the context of our whole country, but there are obviously particular issues here given the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I thank the Northern Ireland civil servants for their assistance on this as I tried to grapple with some of the issues of operability, particularly the resource implications of some of these changes should we be in the unfortunate situation of either leaving the European Union or ending up with a no-deal exit.
First, can the Minister confirm my understanding that there will be a significant increase and strain on the number of inspectors that the Northern Irish team will need? I understand it will need more than double the number of horticultural inspectors, which is a significant number in terms of both cost and finding them in a short time. That gives an indication of the scale of the challenge that the Northern Ireland plant health team will have to face.
Furthermore, as the Minister rightly said, plants and plant products coming into Northern Ireland from non-EU countries will need to be checked at an authorised trade premise or designated point of entry. The most likely route for that would be arriving on a roll-on, roll-off at Dublin and then travelling overland to Northern Ireland, yet I understand that currently no businesses have registered as authorised trade premises, so the only designated point of entry for those checks would be Belfast port.
In an earlier debate on this SI, we had a fairly full and frank discussion on this, when the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, who is not in her place, talked about our fear of “trailing pestilence” across our country. There is an issue for those of us who worry about transporting unchecked consignments to designated premises outside individual ports for checking. Having said that, at the moment there are no designated points of entry for checks in Northern Ireland other than Belfast port. Are the Government seeking to encourage stakeholders to become authorised trade premises to relieve the burden on Belfast port, and if no business premises are approved, is the Minister confident that Belfast port can deal with all the checks likely to be needed?
I have concerns, too, for Northern Ireland farmers in the event of no deal. It is clear from discussions on the SI on trade in animals and related products that if we leave without a deal, farmers will be obliged to have any livestock they are sending to the EU enter via an EU border inspection post. If the Government fail to reach an agreement with the EU, we could see Northern Ireland farmers and their livestock having to be transported greater distances, with all the risks to their welfare that that entails, because they have to go first to an EU border inspection post before onward transportation. What indications has the Minister had from the EU of where those EU border inspection posts might be in the event of no deal?
As the Minister rightly said, an issue of social concern in Northern Ireland is the movement of pet animals because of its land border with the EU member state of the Republic. I will not repeat our exploration in previous SI debates of the additional costs, delays and administrative burdens for owners wishing to take their pets into the EU should the Government fail to secure listed status in the event of no deal, but clearly this will be a big concern for Northern Ireland given its land border. Can the Minister give any update on discussions with the EU on this issue which might mitigate the considerable extra burdens that Northern Ireland pet owners would face in the event of no deal?
My Lords, I thank the Minister for all the additional work he has had to undertake with regard to Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, this has come about because, as we know, there is no Northern Ireland Assembly or Executive to discuss and pass these Motions. However, I think all of us here hope that the ongoing talks taking place in Stormont will prove successful, and that might relieve the Minister. It is vital, however, that these Motions are agreed to protect animals and plants in Northern Ireland from disease, which can be imported from other countries, so I very much welcome the regulations. Northern Ireland has some of the best policies that defend animals and plants from imported disease. When the European Union certificate is replaced by the phytosanitary certificate, it will obviously involve additional administration. Can the Minister say who will bear the additional cost: the importer or the exporter, or will it be passed on to the public? Once again, I thank the Minister for all his work and for keeping the Northern Ireland Peers so well informed about these matters.
I shall follow on from my noble friend. The Minister talked about the consultations between officials from Defra and the Irish Republic. Can he tell the House what consultations have taken place with the Ulster Farmers Union and the other groupings that represent farmers in Northern Ireland, and do they agree with the regulations before the House this evening?
Also, do any of these regulations have any connection with the backstop being demanded by Europe in the present negotiations? If they relate to the present negotiations and the backstop, which is opposed by many within Northern Ireland, certainly my colleagues in the Democratic Unionist Party will have to look afresh at these recommendations.
My noble friend also asked about the burden being placed. Do any of the proposals place a greater burden on the agricultural and business community in Northern Ireland than those in the rest of the United Kingdom? Who will bear the financial responsibility for that?
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to the SIs this afternoon and for arranging a useful briefing for us beforehand. I particularly thank our Northern Ireland departmental colleagues, who joined us online and were particularly candid about some of the challenges facing cross-border trade, with which they are grappling at the current time. Their briefing and insight was extremely helpful. It is clear that close co-operation with the south is essential although, as I understand from an earlier letter from the Minister, it is not possible to have specific bilateral talks on trade between the UK and EU member states, such as the Irish Republic, in advance of us leaving.
Whatever happens as a result of the Brexit negotiations, it is fairly obvious that trade across the Irish border will become more bureaucratic and less free-flowing in future. There will, for example, be a need for phytosanitary certificates for plants crossing the border. There will be a new need for importers to be registered and new offences arising from the new requirements to take goods to an approved place of inspection. At a minimum level, this will require a huge communication initiative to ensure that farmers, food manufacturers and retailers are made aware of the cross-border import issues. Can the Minister assure us that all of those affected by these changes have been made aware of these new rules?
On the trade in animals SI, the Minister will know that when this was considered by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, it expressed surprise that the regulations had been delayed after being cleared for consideration by the House. The reason given was that the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs chose to delay it pending negotiations on third-country status. As a result, we are now dealing with it under the “made affirmative” process. I shall not make heavy weather of this, but it seems the wrong way round to proceed. Surely, the UK Parliament should have considered the content before the issue was included in the package for conclusion with the EU on those third-country negotiations. Having said that, we accept that the SI is largely technical in nature. It is clearly important that we can continue to import the goods covered by it post Brexit with the minimum of disruption at the Irish border, and it would be helpful if the Minister could reiterate that there will indeed be no additional checks at the border—although I think he has made that point clear.
On the plant health SI, these regulations are very similar to those which we have already debated covering England. Again, the presence of the land border between the north and the Republic brings these issues into starker focus. As the Minister explained, goods entering from the EU that currently require a plant passport under EU rules will now require a phytosanitary certificate, which can be checked digitally rather than at the border.
However, there seems to be a real challenge in managing goods coming from a third country. In our earlier briefing with Northern Ireland officials, it was initially suggested that goods from third countries would arrive via Belfast port or Belfast airport and could be checked at those entry points—the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, raised this issue, although I have put a slightly different emphasis on it so clarification would be helpful. In our earlier discussions, it became clear that the other obvious route for third-country goods to arrive was via Dublin airport; there was an expectation that they would then be driven across the border. If that were the case, surely border checks would be necessary. Perhaps the Minister can clarify how goods will be handled when they arrive at Dublin airport en route to Northern Ireland. If I am right in what I am saying, is there a danger that, once this route becomes known, many more importers might opt for it because no checks on the border would allow importers to avoid additional checks? Either there will be checks on the border, which everybody says is completely undesirable, or goods coming via Dublin airport will face no checks, in which case there is a danger of goods being imported illegally. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain how he thinks those journeys will take place and what checks will take place.
Can the Minister also explain more about the new offences created in this SI, which seem to include unlimited fines for failing to take goods to an approved place of inspection? Is that indeed the case? Is there ever a limit to an unlimited fine? How will that be calculated? Too prohibitive a fine could mark the end of business for some importers. Will importers be given adequate notice of this new provision? Does the Minister feel that it is proportionate, given the significant changes in import arrangements with which businesses will be grappling? Will these new fines be phased in, or on what date are they due to be applied? It would be helpful for importers to know that. Has any estimate been made of how many businesses will be affected by this new measure?
As the Minister knows, the animal health, seed potatoes and food SI was debated in the Commons on 23 April. During that debate, my noble friend Sandy Martin MP—the Defra shadow spokesperson—pointed out what he thought were other technical and grammatical errors in the text of the SI. At the time, the Minister gave an assurance that he would look at these possible errors and correct them if necessary. Were his concerns checked and corrected before the SI came before us?
When we met with officials, it also came to light that our exit from the EU would have a major impact on seed potato growers in Northern Ireland, as 50% of their seed potatoes are exported to the Republic and the EU bans the import of seed potatoes from third countries. What steps are being taken to mitigate the impact of this loss of trade on Northern Ireland businesses?
These issues aside, we accept that the SI is broadly technical in nature. We are therefore happy to approve it in all other respects.
Finally, it continues to be a considerable political failure that these devolved issues do not have a Northern Ireland Assembly to scrutinise them—a point made by noble Lords on the Cross Benches. I very much hope that this will be rectified soon.
My Lords, I have been very impressed by the debate. I remind Members of the House that there will be a debate on Wednesday afternoon on Brexit and biosecurity, which goes through this whole issue and applies much more broadly. The speakers’ list is still open. I am sure that the Minister and I would very much appreciate further participation.
I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I am very much looking forward to the debate; I rather think I am looking at a number of the participants already. I am most grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Browne of Belmont and Lord McCrea, for participating and emphasising that we wish this matter were being dealt with elsewhere. That should be the right way forward—it is the way mature politics needs to proceed—so I very much endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Belmont, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, have said. In my view, the responsibility is really on everyone in the public service to ensure that these talks are productive and successful. Alas, as we all know, we are talking about people’s lives and communities. We want a better time for Northern Ireland—what a great place it is—so, although I should not be doing this, it is a privilege and we are seeking to do the right thing for Northern Ireland.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh hit on a vein: I think she and many of your Lordships know that I am rather keen on the horse. Obviously, the Government recognise the value of the equine sector to the UK economy. I also know—declaring an interest in that my wife’s family breed horses in County Tipperary—that it is of great importance to the rural economy of Northern Ireland and the Republic. We therefore need to do all we can to ensure the movement of horses between the United Kingdom and Ireland—and indeed France; across the piece—and to ensure that in some way we can continue what was the tripartite agreement. We need to work on some arrangement to ensure the free movement of horses, particularly bearing in mind biosecurity. We do not want any future arrangements to jeopardise something that is absolutely crucial, particularly in that thoroughbred end—racing—where pest diseases, viruses, et cetera, are absolutely kept to a minimum by high biosecurity.
How to find an arrangement to best succeed the tripartite agreement is something for negotiations. We all recognise—the UK Government and, I think, the Irish and French racing interests as well—that what we had was of value, and we need to see how we can work. This is why the British Thoroughbred Industries Brexit Steering Group is collaborating with Defra officials. We absolutely need to see what we can do for a very important part of the rural economies of the Republic and our country.
The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, rightly raised a number of points about the resource implications and so forth. My understanding of the sort of numbers under a new regime is that the five inspectors would need to be increased to 11—a doubling. All consignments of regulated—that is, high-risk—plants and plant products currently imported from the EU under the existing EU passport system would require pre-notification, to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate and subject to remote documentary checks in the event of exit without an agreement. This plays into a point that I emphasised and that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, acknowledged: this is precisely because neither we in this country nor the Republic want to have checks at the border. We think there are ways in which these matters can be checked. As we said in the previous debate, we should not be nervous of thinking about the best ways of heightening biosecurity. Making this the responsibility of a country’s plant health authority has that strength and imprimatur. If we import something from Italy, say, it will be the Italian plant health authority that has to signify the phytosanitary certificate. We should not be fearful of some elements of this new arrangement because they are about what we increasingly need to look at.
The recent survey suggests that these checks include a significant number of consignments which are subject to existing plant passport checks, and make an additional provision to undertake phytosanitary certificate checks that may be required to accommodate some trade in smaller consignments. Furthermore, these checks are likely to continue to be undertaken in the existing border inspection posts.
It is estimated that each documentary check would take approximately 10 minutes to complete and DAERA’s resources will, as I say, need to increase to 11 inspectors to facilitate this eventuality. This equates to a maximum of 17 checks per inspector to be carried out within their daily duties. I quizzed officials about whether this was manageable and within the scope of what the 11 could undertake, and they were sure that this amount of people would be able to undertake that important work.
The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, raised an important point about pets. This instrument simply proposes to maintain the current standards and requirements for pet animals travelling into the UK from the EU using pet passports and other documentations if the UK leaves without an agreement. We have made a proper response: biosecurity will not be put in jeopardy by keeping the same arrangements immediately post exit. I have no agenda and the question of whether we have the right level of biosecurity is for the future and, perhaps, for the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, later in the week.
EU law imposes additional requirements on pet movement into the EU from third countries, the extent of which depends on the category of listing. The United Kingdom has already made its application for listed pet travel status precisely to mitigate potential burdens, and the agreed extension on the date of EU exit provides a good opportunity to progress this application further. Defra officials are working closely with those in Northern Ireland so that we can further those discussions. We understand that people feel strongly about this issue.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Parminter and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, referred to the important issue of authorised trade premises. It is correct that no business has, as yet, applied to become an authorised trade premises. However, future applications will be facilitated by DAERA. For goods entering Northern Ireland directly from third countries, the established border inspection posts currently accommodate the trading level of 500 annual consignments. DAERA is engaging with stakeholders about the implications of the regulations for each sector. This bears out what the noble Lord, Lord McCrea, said about discussing and raising the issue with Ulster’s farming unions and so forth. Clearly it is essential that there is a continuing dialogue with stakeholders, because there will be a number of requirements that they will need to attend to.
The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, also raised the issue of animal welfare consequences. This is an area where DAERA and Defra are working on all contingency plans to minimise any disruption in the event of leaving with no deal. We are working with APHA to ensure that transporters have the most robust contingency plans. We clearly need to ensure that. I have to say that these SIs cover imports to the UK only as we cannot legislate about how the EU will choose to treat exports from the UK. That is why negotiations and a deal are what we all desire.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, raised the question of delay. We wanted to ensure that the policies we had developed would work within the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland. On 13 March this year the UK Government confirmed their policy of having no new checks or controls on goods at a land border between the Republic and Northern Ireland if the United Kingdom were to leave without an agreement. This enabled these instruments to proceed, ensuring the important controls to protect the biosecurity of the island of Ireland, while managing without checks at the land border.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, raised the question of increased bureaucracy. The intention is that regulated plants and plant products imported from the EU will be subject to remote documentary checks. They will not be subject to physical inspection following entry. We must not be fearful of this. A phytosanitary certificate gives an extra handle. We have discussed biosecurity with DAERA and Defra officials, and this is a constructive and important way forward.
The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Belmont, raised the issue of the cost of plant health checks and their costs. They are consistent with the existing policy of recovering the cost of providing plant health services through charging those who use the services. Fees will apply for any inspections undertaken. Our policies and plans for day one seek to maintain current high levels of plant health biosecurity. We also want to preserve the flow of trade in plants and plant products, and we are seeking to minimise new impacts on businesses.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, referred to plant materials transiting through the Republic of Ireland. This may have come up in our earlier considerations. Regulated plants and plant products from third countries that transit the EU en route to Northern Ireland are currently subjected to plant health checks at the first point of entry into the EU to ensure biosecurity protection. Cleared goods can then circulate within the EU and are assigned the same status as EU goods. Regulated plants and plant products from third countries transiting the EU en route to Northern Ireland which have not been cleared in the EU would be subject to regulatory controls under this instrument. They require all imports of regulated plants and plant products from third countries transiting to Northern Ireland via Dublin or anywhere in the EU to provide DAERA with three days’ pre-notification of any consignment’s arrival in Northern Ireland. The pre-notification provides relevant details of the goods and their expected date of arrival at a DAERA-authorised approved place of inspection within Northern Ireland where documentary and physical checks are completed. Goods will not be subject to plant health checks at the Northern Ireland border. The instrument also requires that the goods be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the appropriate authority in the country of origin. This instrument gives the same assurance for third-country goods transiting the EU to Northern Ireland as is provided by the corresponding Defra instrument in respect of Great Britain.
I am very conscious of seed potatoes. I am aware of the historic interest in them, particularly in Scotland, where seed potatoes are very important—and, of course, Northern Ireland sells seed potatoes to the Republic. At present, annually the Northern Ireland seed potato sector produces 4,000 tonnes, which are marketed in the EU, Great Britain and third countries. In 2017 approximately 50% of certified seed potatoes produced in Northern Ireland were exported to the Republic of Ireland, and the market in the Republic was valued at £525,000 annually. So seed potatoes are very significant for Northern Ireland farmers in this sector.
It is envisaged that without an agreement there would be a curtailment of outlets for seed potatoes grown in Europe in markets including the Republic. That is why we need to work on getting an arrangement, and it is an example of precisely why this Government are seeking a deal rather than no deal.
The noble Baroness also raised the importance of areas of legislation. Biosecurity is of paramount importance. We are clear that our aim is to have a fully functioning statute book from exit day to ensure that we continue to protect public health and the environment. All relevant powers and provisions covered by EU legislation will still be available. Our intention to retain relevant EU legislation inevitably meant that it was not possible to include everything in earlier SIs, as EU legislation is updated frequently. Obviously, I cannot guarantee that there will not be further updates in this area that we will need to attend to.
If I may, I will return with further information about some of the consultations that I know have taken place with stakeholders in Northern Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord McCrea, in particular raised that point. I will also come back to your Lordships if there is any further information about ports and docks. Certain owners of business premises may now be reflecting that going to the dock or the airport is not the most sensible thing to do. Clearly, trade premises need to be of a sufficient standard. I absolutely take the point that there must be no way in which these arrangements permit pests, diseases and other problems to travel from the point of entry to the inspection point. Again, I assure noble Lords that I have been ferocious on that point.
I will look at Hansard because there might be some details that I have not covered sufficiently.