The UK’s largest membership body for the veterinary profession got together on 26 May 2022 to set a blueprint for making international trade in live animals and animal products run as smoothly and effectively as possible following Brexit. In its new position on the facilitation of trade between Great Britain and the EU Single Market, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) sets out a series of recommendations for decision-makers in both the UK and EU for simplifying processes and making the vital system of assurance more efficient.
The position considers key areas central to success, including making better use of veterinary workforce capacity, exploring a greater support role for allied professionals working alongside vets, and fast-tracking the digitisation of certification processes. It forms the culmination of several years of exploring and engaging with the profession, farmers, governments and the food industry on these issues following BVA’s 2017 Brexit and the Veterinary Profession report.
Vets have an integral role to play in certifying animals and animal products for trade, and ensuring that the UK market maintains its high standards in animal health and welfare, public health and food safety. However, BVA has previously warned that soaring demand post-Brexit for export health certificates, coupled with existing capacity shortfalls, could create major issues for the profession.
To ease the burden on the workforce and make best use of existing resource, BVA is calling on the Government to collaborate with stakeholders on a strategy that ensures that the UK has the necessary veterinary capacity and capability to facilitate international trade and carry out other essential work. It is also recommending that the Government explore opportunities for making better use of allied professionals, such as certification support officers, for aiding the process under the direction of veterinary teams.
As well as easing pressures on a stretched workforce, the position recommends a series of measures to simplify the process of veterinary certification while still providing the level of assurance required by global markets. BVA is calling for vets and businesses to have clear guidance to support a move to digital processes, and for the Government to give more time to exploring the benefits of remote certification and third party attestations (where a qualified professional can give assurances based on guidance ahead of a vet signing off a product) for low-risk products.
BVA’s position also recognises the need for strong collaboration between the UK and EU to drive efficiencies and positive outcomes. It recommends that the UK Government engage vets, farmers and processors in identifying opportunities to simplify trade requirements, and that under the framework of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) the UK and EU build on what works well.
It sees opportunities following Brexit for Great Britain to set its own imports regime, tailored to the country’s specific biosecurity needs, harnessing new technology and making the most of veterinary and allied professional capacity. BVA has previously warned that delaying or cancelling altogether the introduction of import checks could “wreak havoc” for disease prevention and weaken a vital layer of protection for animal and human health in the UK.
Justine Shotton, BVA President, said: “In launching our position today we’re bringing together the collective wisdom of many people working within and alongside the veterinary profession to keep trade running smoothly and to high health, welfare and safety standards. We want to see the UK and EU working together closely to grasp the opportunities ahead, as well as acknowledging and ironing out some of the considerable issues we face in terms of capacity and making the most of existing resource.
“The UK Government is making some welcome steps in the right direction to maximise resource and make systems more efficient, including introducing a certification support officer role and putting digitisation high on the agenda. Going forward into what is new and uncharted territory, it’s vital that they continue to engage closely with vets, who are so central to the process and our future success on the global stage.”