An English beekeeper from Kent named Patrick Murfet tried to import 15 million bees into the UK by way of Northern Ireland. He stated he was told that they might be destroyed, seized and burned, due to new post-Brexit laws.

Murfet has been a beekeeper for nearly 20 years and has imported baby bees from Italy for years for his business and to help other farmers to pollinate their crops. He is familiar with this process as managing director of Bee Equipment, located near Canterbury. Every year he imports a high volume of bees from bee breeders in the warmer Italian climate.

Importing bees from one country to another has been a common practice for decades. It helps apiarists replenish stocks, brings fresh genes into the pool, and strengthens breeding. It also provides fruit and honey farms with early-awakening pollinators in the UK. Murfet believes this new ban could put this business practice in jeopardy.

This 9:52-minute video by HillPark1 features Patrick Murfet and outlines the situation he finds himself in:



This is a matter that many UK merchants may run into, since it relies on new laws that partly conflict with pre-existing laws, following the recent exit of the UK from the European Union. The new laws after the departure of the UK from the EU indicate that bringing bees into the country is banned. Only queen bees can be imported into Great Britain since the end of the transition period. Not packages of bees or bee colonies.  

Patrick Murfet arranged for his import of 15 million bees to arrive in Northern Ireland in April in an attempt to abide by the new laws and find a way to avoid the import ban. He was told the bees might be destroyed if he tries to import them. The question about whether the import can legally take place via Northern Ireland is seen as a confusing legal headache.

This situation could create financial difficulties for Murfet, who placed a deposit of around £20,000 on the bees and could lose as much as £100,000 in costs if he cannot import them into the UK.

He has not been able to get a response about the reasoning behind the ban, which seems to conflict with the rules that clearly state that bees from Northern Ireland can enter the UK legally. He has only received an email that stated that illegal imports will be sent back, or destroyed, and criminal charges will be brought against the importer.

A spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) stated they are aware of the issue and are working to find a solution so they can provide bee importers and beekeepers with guidance as soon as possible.

Defra added that it is the responsibility of the importer to ensure that goods dispatched from Northern Ireland meet the definition of NI qualifying goods or meet import requirements. Given the apparent conflict in the requirements as mentioned above, this seems almost impossible to do.