Whatever form it ends up taking, uncertainty around Brexit has touched industry across the UK, including the veterinary profession.
In a no deal scenario, the export of animal products to the EU would not be permitted until the UK became a listed country. Even after this, there would be increased requirements for veterinary certification and border checks. It’s estimated that certification requirements in a no deal situation could increase by 150-300%, and this increase is likely to be even higher in Northern Ireland.
Many farmers are concerned that British farming, renowned for its high welfare and quality, could be undermined by trade deals with countries that have lower standards and, in some cases, use methods currently banned in the UK.
So where do vets fit in?
Vets work closely with farmers at all stages of the agricultural supply chain and government-appointed Official Veterinarians (OVs) play a vital role in public health: certifying the safety and quality of animal products during border checks, working in research and surveillance or monitoring animal health and welfare in abattoirs.
Certification requirements in a no deal situation could increase by up to 325%.
The UK veterinary workforce is heavily reliant on EU graduates, particularly in public health. In the meat hygiene sector, for example, 95% of OVs hail from overseas, predominantly the EU. BVA continues to lobby for immigration rules to meet the needs of the profession as a matter of urgency and for vets to be restored to the Shortage Occupation List to safeguard against post-Brexit shortfalls in capacity.
A no deal Brexit could also affect veterinary surveillance: the process of disease monitoring and management. Amid reports of avian influenza and African Swine Fever in neighbouring countries, there are serious concerns that UK vets will lose access to the EU-wide Animal Disease Notification System, potentially impacting on future EU-funded research collaborations.
What can vets do?
It’s imperative that farmers and vets work closely together in the unpredictable times ahead. Our advice would be to plan as far ahead as possible, getting routine herd health and fertility visits, and bTB (Bovine TB) tests booked in as soon as possible. Farmers should also talk to their vet about vaccines to avoid any gaps due to potential medicine supply issues.
BVA recently published an ‘8-point plan for surviving a no deal Brexit’
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