Vets raise concerns about how migration recommendations would play out in reality

BVA has responded to the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) report on European Economic Area (EEA) migration, welcoming the evidence-based approach but raising concerns about how some proposals will translate in the real world, especially for vets carrying out vital public health roles.

The report explores current and likely future patterns of EEA migration into the UK and makes a series of recommendations for designing the UK’s post-Brexit system for work-based immigration.  

The Committee sets out a general principle that policy changes should make it easier for higher-skilled workers to migrate to the UK than lower-skilled workers.  It recommends that EU citizens should not necessarily be preferred over non-EU migrants, on the assumption that UK immigration policy will not form part of an agreement with the EU.

The report also recommends that the cap on the number of migrants under Tier 2 should be abolished, with existing salary thresholds maintained.

Responding to the report, John Fishwick, BVA President, said: “We would be concerned about how some of these recommendations would play out in reality given the veterinary profession’s high dependence on the EU for workforce supply.  Nearly half of vets registering to work in the UK every year come from the EEA, so it’s critical that any changes to migration policy are designed to maintain capacity and guard against sudden shortages rather than introducing new layers of bureaucracy such as the onerous application for licences to sponsor employees or restrictions on flexible movement between roles. 

“While it makes sense to create a level playing field for the migration of skilled workers after Brexit, this could hit parts of the sector hard if the Immigration Skills Charge is extended to the recruitment of EU workers.  In the abattoir industry, where 95 per cent of Official Veterinarians monitoring animal welfare standards and upholding food safety in the supply chain hail from overseas, mainly from the EU, introducing a charge would be detrimental both to businesses and public health.  We would urge for the recommendation to be reviewed ahead of implementation before it can do lasting damage in this vital area of the workforce.

“It is no mean feat to assess the impact of EEA migration across all sectors and regions of the UK and the committee should be applauded for producing an extremely wide-ranging and evidence-based report, which recognises the valuable contribution that migrants make across UK industries.  However, we will continue to engage with MAC and the Home Office to ensure that the veterinary profession’s special circumstances, as well as the multiple benefits that EU vets and the wider workforce realise across animal health and welfare and public health, are considered and championed.

“The committee’s next report – on the Shortage Occupation List – is the one that the veterinary profession will be awaiting with bated breath.  BVA has worked hard to make a strong case for reinstating vets on the list; this would deliver lasting impacts and is the best place to start to stave off a crisis in workforce capacity.”

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