While the past few weeks have been very interesting for observers of politics (and great for political journalists!) I imagine that for many veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and veterinary practices the excitement may be mixed with a fair bit of uncertainty.
Some 27 per cent of those on the Register of Veterinary Surgeons are registrants from elsewhere in the European Union and they make up around half of all new registrants every year. Meat hygiene and public health are heavily dependent on veterinary surgeons from the EU and I am sure that most veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses will have colleagues from one of the other 27 states. The input of these vets has been invaluable and I would like to both recognise and applaud the positive impact they have had on the veterinary industry and animal welfare.
The Brexit negotiations have yet to begin and while we may want to give absolute certainties to our EU colleagues that they will continue to be able to live and work here unimpeded – it is very much dependent on the agreements the Government makes regarding freedom of movement and the single market. What we can guarantee, however, is two things. First, that their status as Member of the RCVS is sacrosanct and that, as long as the annual fees are paid, any current registrant will be able to remain on the Register of Veterinary Surgeons.
Second that along with the British Veterinary Association, we will be lobbying and working with Whitehall’s Brexit team and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible and to take into account the best interests of the veterinary professions and the public. I would personally like to congratulate Andrea Leadsom on her appointment as Secretary of State and look forward to working with her and her team in the coming months and years.
To this end we have set up a Presidential Taskforce to consider the impact of Brexit and which aims to report its conclusions to Council by March 2017. The Taskforce will have several objectives including:
- Considering the EU regulations that currently impact on our regulatory responsibilities and make recommendations as to which should be maintained.
- Looking at the issue of the mutual recognition of veterinary graduates in Europe and make recommendations for how we might deal with applications to join the Register from EU countries post-Brexit.
- Considering manpower requirements and the implications for new systems of immigration.
- Understanding how Brexit might impact our current priorities such as governance and the review of Schedule 3.
- Considering our role as an accreditation organisation and how we can contribute to and influence international affairs outside the EU.
- Studying the financial impact of Brexit on the College.
Brexit is very much a fact of life now and while some may be disappointed with the outcome of the Referendum, the Taskforce will very much be concerned with scoping out new opportunities and engaging with the way the world is changing. As I said at my recent speech at RCVS Day 2016 in respect of digital disruption – change might not always be comfortable or easy, but we cannot resist it and we need to embrace it, work out what it means and take advantage and control of the situation.
There will be many interesting and tough discussions over the coming months and years – and that will just be in our Presidential Taskforce – but we will continue to keep the profession updated on our progress and how the negotiations may affect EU-qualified veterinary surgeons.