As the days, weeks and months count down to Brexit day, every sector of British life must surely have its own concerns. The veterinary sector, largely involving pets and farm animals, is no different. As the UK government prepares for the eventuality of a no-deal Brexit, new technical notices have been issued that give detail of the changes that will need to be implemented. These include pet travel, as well as the import/export of animals and animal products coming to and from the UK. The anticipated changes will be very challenging to implement, even if there are enough vets to carry out the work.

There are three main areas that will be significantly impacted:

Veterinary workforce

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has warned that a no-deal Brexit could result in a logistical nightmare for the veterinary workforce, and this will have direct impacts on the public in a number of areas.

  • Inadequate capacity for vets certifying animals and animal products entering and exiting the UK
  • Too few vets to staff vet clinics for pets, farms and agricultural enterprises across the UK: nearly half of the vets registering to work in the UK every year come from the European Economic Area,  and 95 per cent of Official Veterinarians working in abattoirs come from overseas, mainly the EU.
  • The result for pet owners could be increasing veterinary fees as vet clinics find themselves overloaded with work


Pet travel

After a no-deal Brexit, pets will continue to be able to travel between the UK to the EU, but the level of documentation and health checks will increase. It’s anticipated that the UK will haves “unlisted” third country status following withdrawal from the EU. This means that dogs, cats and ferrets will have to be vaccinated against rabies, and they will need to prove that the vaccine has “taken”, but by undergoing a rabies antibody titration test at least thirty days after vaccination,  and more than three months before their travel date. Pets will need to travel with an animal health certificate issued by an Official Veterinarian, which is valid for ten days from the date of issue until entry into EU member states.

These changes will have a serious impact on pet owners who have grown used to cheap, hassle-free travel between the UK and Europe. The three-month delay means that if people plan to take their pets to Europe in spring or early summer of 2019, they will need to have the blood sample taken over three months prior to their date of travel. This means that the preparation for travel will have to happen sooner rather than later, long before the actual date of Brexit.

  • The result will be increased costs and hassles for pet owners travelling to and from Europe

Trade in animal products

A no-deal Brexit will mean that exports of animals and animal products will be carried out with the EU listing the UK as an “accepted third country”.

Even if access to the Single Market is achieved (and there is no guarantee of this), there have been warnings that a no-deal Brexit could lead to a 325 per cent increase in the volume of products requiring veterinary certification as they leave and enter the UK. This represents a huge increase in workload for the veterinary workforce which could lead to delays and holdups at ports, with consequent serious issues for perishable goods.

If access to the Single Market is not part of the outcome, the consequences for British agriculture do not bear contemplation.

It’s time to prepare for a no-deal Brexit now

The BVA President, Simon Doherty, has said “These technical notices are an important step in putting some of the issues that a no-deal Brexit could present out in the open and helping businesses to prepare accordingly. Going forward, it is critical that the government fully engages with the veterinary profession on matters which may have a bearing on their vital work supporting animal welfare, public health and standards in the supply chain.”

We can change many things in life, but the one unchangeable aspect is time: we know when Brexit has to happen, and time is steadily ticking away till that date. The changes listed above are not to do with “Project Fear”, nor are they vague imaginings or abstract possibilities: they are real facts. If they affect you, what are you going to do about it? It’s easy to wait, quietly hoping and expecting that politicians will somehow sort this out. As time passes, the question becomes more and more urgent: do our politicians have the ability to sort this out? Or are we just going to have to put up with changes, like those listed above, that none of us want to happen?