How the loss of non-UK EU vets could threaten animal welfare, public health and our ability to trade was discussed at a BVA/RCVS reception in Parliament in June. Parliamentary intern Anthony Ridge reports how the discussions will influence the Government’s future immigration policy.
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The General Election saw a wave of fresh MPs enter the Commons and a change of ministers. As the modified parliamentary workforce settled in, it seemed apt that ‘workforce’ was to become a major theme of my activities.
In June I attended a BVA/RCVS reception in Parliament hosted by Lord Trees (pictured below). This was an opportunity for vets to speak directly to parliamentarians.
I was pleased to see Lord Gardiner, Defra minister in attendance, along with MPs and peers from across the political parties.
The BVA President, Gudrun Ravetz, spoke about the many roles of vetsin society and the challenges faced by the profession. She described the UK’s reliance on non-UK EU vets in our workforce and how the potential loss of these vets after Brexit poses a national threat to animal welfare, public health and our ability to trade.
The workforce risk was also highlighted by the new RCVS President, Stephen May, who reported a stark increase in discontent among non-UK EU vets since the Brexit vote with 64 per cent feeling less welcome, 40 per cent saying they were more likely to leave the UK and 18 per cent actively seeking employment overseas.
The following weeks have featured a meeting with Lord Gardiner, accompanied by a delegation of veterinary employers, and meetings with Defra’s UK chief veterinary officer and the chair of the Food Standards Agency.
I assisted Lord Trees in crystallising key points from these discussions into a speech that he gave in the Lords on July 17, during a debate on immigration with the Home Office minister, Baroness Williams. His speech was warmly received.
In her reply, the minister stated that the statistics provided by Lord Trees would form part of the ‘evidence picture’ for future immigration policy to ensure that ‘the best and brightest will continue to be welcome to come to the UK’.
Several other peers also referenced Lord Trees’ speech and commented on how the veterinary profession – despite its relatively small size – is a vital part of our society.
It occurred to me that Brexit offers us a helpful opportunity. As politicians try to make a success of Brexit, there is a chance for renewed political interest in the value that the veterinary profession brings to society. That can only be a good thing.
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