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MPs have warned of a vet shortage following the end of free movement to the UK from the European Union. MPs warn of critical shortage in veterinary inspectors

MPs have warned of a vet shortage following the end of free movement to the UK from the European Union.

The House of Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs select committee highlighted the issue following an inquiry into labour in the food supply chain. More vets are needed due to additional veterinary certification requirements following the Brexit transition period.

Overseas-trained vets had an important role working as official veterinarians in the UK, said the committee.  They were an important part of the food supply chain, in this case working as inspectors in abattoirs that were unattractive to UK-trained vets.

“Official veterinarians face an increase in their workload due to increased checks on exports as a result of Brexit. These factors – and the veterinary training required, risk a situation where there is insufficient veterinary labour, without which animal products cannot be cleared for export.” 

The British Veterinary Association gave evidence to the committee last autumn. It also released a report warning of a “triple whammy” facing the veterinary sector due to Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and the threat of disease outbreaks such as avian influenza. 

BVA president James Russell said: “BVA has been raising concerns about the impact of Brexit on veterinary capacity since the referendum. We are very worried about the impact on our members who are already working hard during a difficult period.”

Mr Russell added: “We welcome the committee’s understanding of the critical role vets have in the food supply chain and facilitating international trade in a way that protects animal health and welfare and public health.

“It has long been known that the UK veterinary profession relies heavily on EU-trained vets, particularly in public health roles, and it is vital that immigration policies reflect that fact.”