Brexit and the veterinary profession

EU flag

Our goal

The BVA Brexit report Brexit and the veterinary profession (PDF 2.6 MB) declares the vision of the veterinary profession across several areas of public policy relating to Brexit: workforce, animal health, animal welfare, veterinary medicines, agriculture and trade. The report guides the work of BVA in securing the best possible Brexit outcome for the veterinary profession.

BVA has produced a new briefing document “No Deal” Brexit and the Veterinary Profession (PDF 460 KB), presenting the impacts of the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement in place (a “no deal” scenario). To help members prepare for a no deal Brexit, BVA has also produced an 8-point plan for surviving a no deal Brexit (PDF 166 KB).

Our overarching approach to Brexit is that existing animal health, animal welfare, public health, veterinary medicines, workforce, and environmental protection standards must at least be maintained at the same level, or a level equivalent to current EU standards, while seizing the opportunity to improve standards in accordance with evidence-based risk analysis of animal health, welfare and ethics.

The issues

Pet travel: what vets need to know in the event of a no deal Brexit

The government is issuing advice to vets and pet owners outlining how pet travel arrangements may change if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

In a no deal situation, pet owners would still be able to travel to Europe with their pet after Brexit, but they could need to take additional steps and start preparations at least four months ahead of their planned departure date.

Those wishing to travel to the EU on 30 March 2019, for example, should discuss requirements with their vet as soon as possible and before the end of November 2018 at the latest.

Vaccination and testing ahead of travel

The requirements for travel would include making sure that pets are effectively vaccinated against rabies before they travel. This involves having an up-to-date rabies vaccination and a blood test to demonstrate sufficient levels of rabies antibody.

The blood test would need to be carried out a minimum of 30 days after any initial rabies vaccination and a minimum of three months before their travel date. This means that pet owners will need to talk to their vet about health requirements in good time to make sure they are able to travel with their pet.

The date that the animal can travel is taken from the date of blood sampling, not the date of reporting the results, so even if the report is delayed, the proposed date of travel would not be affected, provided the results are confirmed as clear.

Pet passports

Vets should continue to issue EU pet passports for pets travelling up until 29 March 2018. It is not yet clear whether the pet passports scheme will continue or take a new form after Brexit, so vets should issue the new documentation as appropriate for travel from 30 March.

Advice for Official Veterinarians

Further information for Official Veterinarians is available on the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Vet Gateway.

Advice for pet owners

Pet owners should be advised to contact their vet by the end of November 2018 if they want to travel with their pet from 30 March 2019, to ensure they have enough time to carry out all testing and health checks necessary. Guidance for pet owners has been published.

Please download a poster for your practice (PDF 792 KB) to help spread the word about the importance of planning ahead. With the Easter holidays falling soon after EU exit day, it’s essential that pet owners know to start preparing now to avoid disappointment nearer the time.

For further information, read the Government’s technical notice on Pet Travel if there’s no Brexit deal.


Workforce concerns predated the decision to leave the EU, but have intensified as a result. As part of the Veterinary Capability and Capacity Project (VCCP), BVA are working to address these issues with Defra, RCVS, devolved administrations, Food Standards Agency, APHA and Food Standards Scotland. VCCP is mapping the landscape of the UK-wide veterinary profession, enabling workforce shortfall issues to be identified and addressed, and to mitigate against a potential loss of EU veterinarians prior to and following exit from the

The Home Office published an immigration white paper in December 2018. The Home Office has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to advise on the need for migration going forward. BVA has submitted a joint submissions with RCVS to the Migration Advisory Committee in November 2017 (944 KB PDF) and January 2018 (PDF 622 KB).

Immigration law experts Squire Patton Boggs have produced an immigration FAQ for BVA members (70 KB PDF) to answer common questions for non-British EEA nationals and those who employ non-British EEA nationals.


In submissions to Department for International Trade, International Trade Committee, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and Welsh Affairs Committee BVA has explained the important role of veterinary surgeons in trade and reiterated the need to maintain workforce capacity. Additionally, we have stressed that trade deals must prioritise animal health, animal welfare, public health and access to veterinary medications.


The veterinary profession is an integral part of the agricultural and food sectors. Veterinary surgeons provide preventive healthcare and treatment for livestock, as well as carry out surveillance, promote good biosecurity, promote high animal health and welfare and optimise productivity and sustainability. Official Veterinarians (OVs) certify the trade in animals and animal products thus contributing to the sustainability of food production. The future of the UK agri-food production is therefore of great interest and importance to the veterinary profession.

An agriculture white paper is expected early 2018. BVA is engaging with DEFRA civil servants and Ministers on the future farm payment regime that will replace the Common Agricultural Policy. BVA is published a Veterinary Vision for Post Brexit Agricultural Policy (PDF 156 KB).

Animal health and welfare

A high proportion of UK Government animal health and welfare policy is enacted via EU legislation in the form of either Directives or Regulations. The EU Withdrawal Bill will incorporate EU legislation into domestic law, which is significant as EU law underpins everything from the Cascade to the principle of animal sentience.

The principle of animal sentience was not included in the original bill. 1,194 individual veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and veterinary students added their names to an open letter calling on the UK government to recognise animal sentience and ensure there is a duty on the state to have due regard for animal welfare in the development and implementation of policy. The Government has listened and introduced a draft Animal Welfare Bill.

Action taken by BVA

BVA has submitted responses to:

Through our public affairs and media work, BVA has made the case for the veterinary profession’s priorities. The Brexit report, outlining our main recommendations and requesting meetings, were sent to the Secretaries of State for Defra and DExEU, Shadow Ministers and spokespeople, Committee Chairs and other key parliamentarians. Our lobbying at Westminster has included:

  • BVA President gave evidence to the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee inquiry on Farm Animal Welfare in April 2017, leading to national widespread media coverage highlighting vets’ vital role when the report launched.
  • A joint BVA/RCVS Brexit briefing was delivered to MPs and Peers in June 2017.
  • A Brexit-focussed speech was delivered at our annual afternoon tea reception for MPs and members of the House of Lords, October 2017.
  • BVA Officers have met with Defra Minister Lord Gardiner, outlining our key Brexit asks - and other profession priorities.
  • BVA President delivered a Brexit-focussed speech at our annual London dinner in January 2018.
  • BVA Senior Vice President gave evidence to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee inquiry on Labour constraints in February 2018 (PDF 84 KB).

We have employed our relationships at a European level. We met with Veterinary Ireland the professional body for veterinary surgeons in the Republic of Ireland. This meeting focussed on mutual Brexit issues and areas where we can collaborate. With BVA input, Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) have issued a Brexit one-pager, which will help ensure BVA messaging reaches European governments.

Relevant resources