Assembly members briefed on the challenges and opportunities Brexit presents for the Welsh veterinary workforce

Assembly Members have gathered to hear about the far-ranging impacts that the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union could have on the Welsh veterinary workforce.

Attendees at the event at the Welsh Assembly’s Tŷ Hywel building heard from representatives from the British Veterinary Association, who highlighted the vital role that vets and veterinary nurses play in ensuring high standards of animal health and welfare and food safety in Wales. The briefing event was hosted by Assembly Member and BVA Honorary Associate, Llyr Gruffydd.

Vets play a crucial role in supporting the agricultural industry in Wales, which is the cornerstone of the Welsh economy.  Brexit will also have specific impacts on Wales as it is one of the only areas of the UK – alongside Cornwall – to receive ongoing EU funding to support deprived communities.

BVA is calling for pledges to guarantee working rights for non-UK EU vets and vet nurses to be realised in law as quickly as possible, to offer the reassurances needed now by affected colleagues and their families.  Recent research from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) shows that nearly half (44%) of EU vets living, studying and working in the UK are ‘fearful’ for their future post-Brexit, and one in five is actively looking for work in other countries.

To prevent a crisis in veterinary capacity after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, BVA is urging the Home Office to add vets to the shortage occupation list.  A fall in EU vet numbers would pose a particular risk for sustaining food safety and animal welfare standards in abattoirs, where an estimated 95 per cent of Official Veterinarians are from overseas, mostly the EU.

Addressing attendees at the event, BVA’s Welsh Branch President Sarah Carr also emphasised the need for a single standard for animal products destined for both domestic and export markets post-Brexit.

She said: “A single standard that champions animal welfare through veterinary controls and certifications will avoid the opportunity for fraud that is associated with multiple parallel standards.  Vets’ pivotal role means we can provide public health guarantees for consumer confidence both at home and abroad, ensuring the continued demand for Welsh lamb, as well as Wales’ wider thriving export market.”

Assembly Member Llyr Gruffydd, who hosted the briefing event, said: “This is an important opportunity for politicians to understand the challenges facing the sector as well as getting a deeper appreciation of the impacts of Brexit.

“Everyone appreciates the important role vets play in terms of animal health but we also need to understand the important economic and social role they have in communities the length and breadth of Wales. They are a vital ingredient in making our rural communities work and we have to consider that when looking at the threats posed by an extreme Brexit.”

As part of the network of devolved and specialist divisions, BVA Branches contribute local knowledge and expertise to BVA’s wider lobbying and representational activities.

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