A British beekeeper was warned that his baby bees could be seized and burned if he tried to bring them into the UK because of Brexit rules.
Patrick Murfet, managing director at Bee Equipment, wanted to import 15 million baby bees from Italy to England to help farmers pollinate their crops.
Because Brexit rules prohibited him from bringing certain types of bee into the UK from the EU, he considered shipping them via Northern Ireland – but was warned that his bees could be destroyed if he tried.
Murfet says that he has been trying to gain clarity on how he can import his bees from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) since April last year, but has not received a response other than an email reading:
“Illegal imports will be sent back or destroyed, and enforcement action (criminal charges) will be brought against the importer.”
He told the Press Association:
“I am a passionate beekeeper, I’ve been doing it for nearly 20 years. It’s a monumentally stupid situation for a country supposed to be standing on its own two feet and exporting round the world.”
Murfet also revealed that he stands to lose almost £100,000 if he cannot import his bees as intended. Before the UK left the single market, he was able to bring large numbers of bees from breeders in Italy to his business in Canterbury, from which they would be delivered to farmers in Kent.
“So far [Defra] has overseen a policy whereby the UK is only one of three countries in Europe to see a decline in bee colonies. Fewer honeybees means less pollination, less top fruits and more imports.”
Although Murfet isn’t the only person to have their business operations interrupted by Brexit, his plight has struck a chord.