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 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 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 148 KB). More recently, we have produced a summary assessment of government preparations to date under the key headings of veterinary workforce, animal health and welfare, food safety, veterinary medicines, R&D, trade, devolution, and Northern Ireland – BVA no-deal Brexit planning table (PDF 364 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

Equine movements

The government has released advice to vets and horse owners outlining how travel arrangements may change if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, arrangements after 30 March 2019 depends on:

  • if the EU lists the UK as a third country for the export of equines
  • the sanitary group (health status category) the EU gives the UK

If the EU does not list the UK as a third country, horse owners will not be able to move equines to the EU.

Following listing, the Government advises owners to:

  • contact your official veterinarian to book an appointment so you can get blood tests taken in time
  • contact an agent or transporter and tell them when you plan to travel - you may need more time to plan travel through an EU border inspection post (BIP) - you’ll need to check this list for new BIPs until 29 March

If the UK is listed to export equines, the following will be necessary:

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 after 29 March 2019 should discuss requirements with their vet as soon as possible.

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 are advised to contact their vet well in advance 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.


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 EU.

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 2019 (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.


Government guidance has been published to advise exportersand importersof animals, animal products, fish, food and feed in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Veterinary involvement is embedded to provide assurance.

To export animals, animal products, fish, shellfish, crustaceans or fishery products to the EU, you’ll need:

  • an export health certificate (EHC), which you need to apply for in advance
  • to understand the purpose and requirements of an EHC and any accompanying documentation
  • to have your EHC signed by an Official Veterinarian following an inspection of the consignment
  • to ensure the trade route for your goods allows for your consignment to be checked at a border inspection post (BIP) at the first EU country you enter for export
  • to make sure your EU-based import agent has notified the BIP that your consignment is arriving at least 24 hours in advance
  • to comply with wider HMRC guidance on customs requirements for exporting to the EU

To import animals, animal products, high-risk food and feed to the UK, you’ll need to:

  • make sure you know  the import notification process for importing from non-EU and EU countries
  • speak to your exporters from non-EU and EU countries to make sure they’re aware of the changes
  • for live animals and germplasm, notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) for EU trade or the UK border inspection post (BIP) for non-EU trade that your consignment is arriving at least 24 hours in advance
  • for germplasm, products of animal origin (POAO) and animal by-products (ABP) subject to vet checks, notify the UK BIP (for non-EU trade) that your consignment is arriving before arrival
  • for POAO and ABP from the EU that travel on official documentation (an Intra Trade Animal Health Certificate (ITAHC) or commercial documents (DOCOMs)), notify APHA at least 24 hours before arrival
  • import non-EU high-risk food or feed of non-animal origin into the UK through a designated point of entry (DPE)
  • comply with wider  HMRC customs guidance on customs requirements for importing and consider whether you’ll need an import agent

Future Trade Policy

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 published a Veterinary Vision for Post Brexit Agricultural Policy (PDF 156 KB) where we state animal health and animal welfare should be supported as public goods.

BVA is engaging with civil servants, Ministers, devolved administrations and key stakeholders on the future farm support regime that will replace the Common Agricultural. BVA has responded to consultations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and given oral evidence to Parliament on the Agriculture Bill.

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.

Relevant resources