While we are told on an almost daily basis that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ (whatever that may mean!), there is still a very strong case in the veterinary sphere for close cooperation and partnership with our European neighbours.
It is in this capacity that, twice per year, key members of RCVS Council and me attend meetings of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), an organisation that strives to promote animal health, welfare and public health across Europe through spreading knowledge and best practice amongst colleagues across the continent.
One concrete example of how best practice is shared and diffused amongst FVE’s 38 members is the fact that the Vet Futures project, started here in the UK in 2014 as a joint venture between the College and the British Veterinary Association to help the profession determine and prepare for its long-term future, has inspired a ‘Vet Futures Europe’ project.
The project aims to develop themes and actions which will help the European veterinary profession plan for its future, and inform a strategic plan for the FVE, as well as providing a framework for other member states to develop national Vet Futures reports. The fact that the project has been so well received by our European colleagues and taken on board by them is very gratifying and demonstrates that Britain is often at the forefront of innovation in the veterinary sphere.
One of the countries that has shown the most enthusiasm for Vet Futures is Switzerland which, while not a member of the EU, is certainly a key player in FVE. It is important to note that FVE is not an EU institution and that many non-EU members are active within FVE, including Norway and Turkey. When the United Kingdom leaves the EU we will continue to have a vital role in FVE as one of the biggest economies in Europe employing many thousands of vets from across the continent.
Leaving the EU may create certain complications – decisions made by the European Parliament regarding animal health and welfare in its member states may continue to have an impact on the UK, yet we will lack the ability to directly influence them. Nevertheless, through FVE, we will still play a big role in lobbying not only the EU but also national governments, institutions, NGOs and other stakeholders in promoting the views of the profession as well as animal health and welfare and public health.
And on the subject of what Brexit might mean for the veterinary profession, we recently had the second meeting of the RCVS Presidential Taskforce on Brexit, where we looked at issues ranging from the labour market to mutual recognition of qualifications and much more. The next meeting will be on 9 November and we will be reporting back to RCVS Council in March 2017 with recommendations.