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Busy with Brexit: An update on BVA policy work

BVA is taking a proactive approach to influencing the Brexit negotiations and the Government’s preparations for exiting the EU. Policy Officer Michael McGilligan explains our work to date, and where the veterinary profession can make an impact going forward.

I began my role with BVA as policy officer, focused on Brexit issues, in June 2017. Only a day earlier Michael Gove became Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Since then, both of us have had to quickly grasp the impact of Brexit on the veterinary workforce, animal health and welfare, trade and agriculture. Thankfully, I had Brexit and the veterinary profession, the BVA Brexit report, to provide clarity and guide my work.

Major legislation

Now, the time has arrived when the practicalities of Brexit need to be agreed by decision-makers. Consequently, there are currently four key pieces of legislation that BVA is actively engaging on:

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

This will incorporate EU legislation into domestic law and is significant because EU law underpins animal health and welfare at present. Importantly, the legislation fails to capture Article 13 of the EU Treaty, which enshrines the principle of animal sentience. (You can read the BVA President’s blog post for more detail about this issue.)

Trade Bill

This Bill will put in place a legal framework to allow the UK to strike free trade deals after Brexit. BVA has been explaining the critical role veterinary surgeons play in trade and stressed that trade deals must prioritise animal health, animal welfare, public health and access to veterinary medicines.

Agriculture Bill

This Bill will create a new system of support for farmers, replacing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). We have emphasised that a new system should incentivise animal health, animal welfare, disease surveillance, biodiversity and environmental stewardship as public goods that benefit producers, consumers and wider society.

Immigration Bill

This Bill will create a new system of immigration, replacing the free movement of workers across the EU. The Home Office has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to advise on the need for migration going forward. BVA is has submitted a joint response with RCVS to the MAC calling for vets to be added to the Shortage Occupation List.

We are working to address the workforce issues that predated, but have been exacerbated by, Brexit. BVA colleagues and I have been working closely with Defra, RCVS, devolved administrations and other stakeholders through the Veterinary Capability and Capacity Project (VCCP). 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 veterinary surgeons prior to and following exit from the European Union.

Key consultations

Working through the BVA Policy Committee, I have drafted BVA responses to numerous Brexit-related consultations, with many more to come. Since October 2017, we have submitted responses to:

As Brexit negotiations between the UK Government and EU continue, there remains considerable uncertainty. We are waiting for clarity on the terms of the UK exit; our future trading relationship; the length and terms of any transition deal; the rights of EU nationals to live and work in the UK and Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications.

As you can see, it has been a busy 5 months for Michael Gove and me. There has been a lot to learn, and I have been lucky to receive lots of insight from BVA members. Please get in touch if you have any ideas, recommendations or useful sources of data. You can send me your comments at [email protected]

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