Non-UK vets ‘essential’ after Brexit, says CVO

No position exists on Brexit where the UK veterinary profession can continue to operate without non-UK vets, the UK’s CVO has stated.

Speaking at the Official Veterinarian Conference 2017, Nigel Gibbens told his audience “more than 90% of people working within the FSA [Food Standards Agency], more than 60% of the people working in the Government, and more than 25% of people working in general practice” are non-UK EU nationals or non-UK non-EU nationals.

Explaining a possible “worst case scenario” of Brexit negotiations might mean the volume of products requiring veterinary export health certification increasing “by 325%”, the CVO described the cohort of non-UK vets as “essential”.

He said: “Whether you’re in the Government, working with the Government or a private practitioner, there is a growth area here, so we will need more of us doing more stuff and, in among this, is what happens to our friends and colleagues, the non-UK EU nationals, indeed, the non-UK non EU nationals who work in our services.”

Key card

Prof Gibbens went on: “All I can say is you’re essential. There is no future position we can be in where we can operate without you.”

The CVO had the unenviable task of delivering his speech, “International trade post-Brexit”, the morning before the prime minister’s Florence speech, where she went on to say a two-year period would be required to ensure a smooth transition to a new trading agreement with the EU.

It was a situation the CVO described as he took to the stage as “an unparalleled opportunity for a career-defining foot-in-mouth moment, which I’m trying to avoid”.

The UK’s high international reputation for food safety and animal health and welfare would be a key card in negotiations, and the CVO stressed how vitally important it was for OVs to provide the highest standard of certification for both old and potentially new markets. A single, sub-standard consignment slipping through the net could jeopardise exports to an entire country, he warned.

No precedent for free trade

Prof Gibbens summed up by saying: “We deserve a free trade agreement, but there’s no precedent for it. We want something completely novel and it’s a period of maximum uncertainty as to whether we’re going to get it.”

  • Read the full story in the 9 October issue of Veterinary Times.