With Brexit dominating the headlines, parliamentary intern Anthony Ridge considers some future implications for vets.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
The phrase ‘A week is a long time in politics’ is attributed to Harold Wilson, but if he had been around to witness the fallout from Brexit, he might have been tempted to revise this to ‘24 hours’. The decision by UK voters to leave the European Union has triggered a rapid and monumental cascade of political consequences and, as parliamentary veterinary intern, I find myself in an ideal position to watch and learn as events unfold. I was shocked to see how the leadership of our nation, senior government positions and entire government departments can, quite literally, change overnight. The first wave of change may now be over but, as we set off towards a different destination on the world's stage, I wonder how many more changes we are likely to see. Will vets be directly affected? Should we be concerned?
As intern, one of my main roles is to collect information on topics that are relevant to Lord Trees' work and, with Brexit dominating the headlines, it came as no surprise that this became the theme of my next assignment. I was asked specifically to focus on the extent to which veterinary activities are currently linked to the EU and found that these links run deeper than I had previously imagined.
My first surprise was that non-UK EU graduates currently account for a large proportion of the veterinary workforce in the UK, including 50 per cent of new RCVS registrations, 22 per cent of the academic staff at vet schools and 90 per cent of Official Veterinarians at abattoirs. I was also surprised by the number of veterinary activities in the UK that are underpinned by EU legislation, including the manufacture and distribution of veterinary medicines, disease control measures, food safety, animal welfare standards, rules governing animal transport (both livestock and pets) and many others. With heavy reliance on the EU for our workforce and the laws that govern our activities it is reasonable to assume that a new relationship with the EU will directly affect vets to some degree, but what the changes will be and whether we should be concerned remains to be seen.
The future was a theme of last month not just because of Brexit but also because I had the chance to attend the RCVS/BVA Vet Futures summit in London. This presented a vision of what the veterinary profession should be like in 2030 and offered an inspirational example of vets speaking with one voice on issues such as our careers, our mental health, animal welfare and our position in society.
Brexit offers a stimulus for change and I hope that the Vet Futures vision will help guide our veterinary, industry and political leaders to harness this change for the benefit of vets and, by extension, for the benefit of the animals under our care.