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Diary of a parliamentary intern
  1. Anthony Ridge

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Parliamentary veterinary intern Anthony Ridge attends a House of Lords EU Select Committee meeting and reflects on the important role that the House of Lords could play in Brexit negotiations.

The House of Lords appeared to me to be a rather mysterious institution when I started my internship almost a year ago. I had images of groups of ageing aristocrats dining in lavish halls and living lives far removed from those of normal everyday folk. But the truth, as I have found, is rather different. The modern role that the House of Lords plays in shaping laws and challenging the Government is something that, until this year, I knew little about and I hope that a BBC 2 documentary on the workings of the House of Lords (due for release later this year) will help to explain this and to improve its public image.

Perhaps one of the HoL's most underappreciated roles is that played by the EU Select Committee. This committee, along with its six subcommittees, comprises over 70 members. Among them, former MPs and Members of the European Parliament rub shoulders with ex-EU commissioners and a broad range of experts from both the public and private sectors. The committees are focused solely on providing well-reasoned, evidence-based information to the Government in relation to the EU and benefit from the fact that their members are not bound by party politics or short-term political goals. As we progress into the post-Brexit era, the experience present in this committee is arguably more important now than it has ever been and last week I was provided with an excellent chance to see the committee in action.

The committee was interviewing David Davis MP, who has been chosen to lead the newly formed government Department for Exiting the European Union. The committee offered Mr Davis the experience of its members and argued that the negotiations with the EU must not be a completely black box exercise. The implications of leaving the EU will affect us all and, while the committee recognised the need for a certain degree of confidentiality over the negotiating strategy, several members stressed the importance of not leaving Parliament or, indeed, the British public out of the loop. I was pleased to witness a discussion in which a broad range of issues was discussed in a frank and constructive manner.

Anthony being interviewed outside the Palace of Westminster for an upcoming BVA video on veterinary careers

The timely input of well-reasoned arguments at the top level of British politics is extremely valuable to us all and, as veterinarians, we are lucky to have a fellow vet playing an active part in the Select Committee and its subcommittee on energy and environment. The committees will now be conducting a series of short inquiries to gauge the impacts of Brexit on different sectors. In the absence of the normal levels of Parliamentary scrutiny, these inquiries and the resultant reports may be particularly important in informing the Government's negotiating stance and of particular relevance to veterinarians, given the extensive influence that EU policy has on veterinary activities. As we seek a vision for what life will be like outside the EU, I, for one, am pleased that the experience present in the House of Lords is not being wasted.

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