Veterinarians are vital to achieving the United Kingdom government’s post-Brexit vision for high animal welfare and food safety standards, says the British Veterinary Association (BVA) as it launches a report setting out its key recommendations for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.

The BVA Brexit and the Veterinary Profession Report, was developed through consultation with BVA members, devolved branches, BVA specialist divisions, and other key stakeholders, outlines the role that the U.K. veterinary workforce plays in not only caring for animals, but in enabling trade, ensuring food hygiene and safety, and undertaking research.

Non-British European Union (EU) veterinary surgeons are critical to the U.K. veterinary workforce. Around 50% of veterinary surgeons registering to practice in the U.K. each year come from overseas, with the vast majority of these coming from the rest of the EU. Yet one-fifth of vets are already reporting that it has become harder to recruit since the EU Referendum.

To secure the best possible outcomes for animal health and welfare, public health, and the veterinary profession, BVA’s report sets out 52 recommendations for the short-, medium-, and long-term, including calling on the next government to:

  • Guarantee working rights for non-British EU vets and veterinary nurses (VNs) currently working and studying in the U.K., and for British vets and VNs working in the EU, at the existing level and with no time limit, to ensure the need for veterinary services can be met;
  • Maintain, and seek opportunities to improve, current animal health and welfare standards and prioritize them in all trade negotiations to ensure that a high standard of animal health, welfare and food hygiene is a unique selling point for the U.K.;
  • Commit to maintaining a single standard for meat produced for both domestic and export markets based on current standards of food hygiene legislation and enforcement, including veterinary certification and controls;
  • Negotiate to establish formal links with the EU on disease surveillance, to ensure reciprocal data sharing with Europe is maintained;
  • Guarantee the U.K. veterinary profession ongoing access to all existing veterinary medicines licensed through the EU regulatory systems in order to meet animal health requirements, whilst continuing to play a leading role in tackling antimicrobial resistance internationally;
  • Develop a regulatory and legislative framework to ensure the U.K. continues to be a globally attractive place for research and development; and
  • Establish a body to oversee and coordinate animal health and welfare policy across the U.K.’s four administrations and facilitate partnership working between industry and government to tackle endemic disease and animal heath challenges.

“Vets provide the foundation for the U.K.’s work on animal health and welfare,” said BVA President Gudrun Ravetz, BVSc, MRCVS. “Veterinary teams up and down the country support the U.K.’s 11 million pet-owning households; not a penny of the U.K.’s £13 billion agri-food industry could be realized without vets; and we are an integral part of the international scientific community, annually bringing in over £50 million for research and development projects.

“The veterinary profession is in a unique position from which to offer the next government evidence-based policy recommendations to ensure animal health and welfare, public health, and other standards are at the very least maintained as we exit the EU,” she continued. “We believe Brexit also presents us with opportunities, for example, to develop a strong, competitive food industry with full consumer confidence at home and abroad as well as to position the U.K. as a world leader in high animal welfare and a strong veterinary workforce is vital in achieving this.”

The BVA’s Brexit and the Veterinary Profession report was developed and written by the BVA Brexit Working Group, under chairman Alick Simmons, BVMS, MSc, MRCVS, former U.K. deputy chief veterinary officer, and the BVA council agreed upon it in April. The report builds on BVA’s Brexit Principles and covers seven far-reaching areas of public policy: veterinary workforce, animal health, animal welfare, food hygiene and safety, veterinary medicines, research and development, and trade. Two further sections of the report consider issues relating to devolution and to Northern Ireland’s unique position as the only part of the U.K. to share a land border with an EU member state (Ireland).

Recognizing the importance of developing a strong lobbying position on behalf of the veterinary profession as a whole, BVA and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons have worked collaboratively to champion the profession’s interests in relation to Brexit.

With a snap General Election due on June 8, the BVA has produced a 20-point manifesto of key recommendations covering both Brexit and wider policy issues, which has been sent to the main political parties’ manifesto-writing teams and to BVA’s Honorary Associates.