Vets may be forced to choose between examining and treating livestock or certifying exports in a worst-case Brexit scenario, British Veterinary Association president James Russell has warned.
Mr Russell’s comments highlight growing industry concern that there will be a shortfall in vet capacity after Brexit, with all UK animal products sold in the EU from January 1 requiring an export health certificate and certification checks needed for all animal products imported from the EU.
Mr Russell said: “We are concerned that the UK veterinary profession does not have the capacity to meet demand.
“The immigration system also raises an additional question mark over whether we will be able to fill the workforce gap, as so many vets in this field are currently from the EU.
“This is a situation that we and others have raised with Ministers and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee for a long time now.”
In September, Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, said the organisation had pressed Government for three years to lay out the details of how these barriers to trade will be dealt with.
“They have known since the beginning that we will need an army of extra qualified vets to cope with the 500 per cent increase in workload,” he said.
Mr Allen added there will be important meetings this week with officials to try and establish the severity of the situation and help find some solutions.
A Defra spokesperson told Farmers Guardian the department was working closely with vets and food producers to ensure they were ready for the UK’s next chapter.
“This includes establishing a new online application service for export health certificates which is now live, and launching a £300,000 training fund for vets and local authority officials to prepare for the end of the transition period,” the spokesperson said.