Brexit is doing “untold damage” to the veterinary profession and risks permanently undermining the UK’s global status, a leading Yorkshire vet has told a conference in Portugal.
Jason Aldiss, Managing Director of Leeds-based Eville & Jones which provides Official Veterinarians (OVs) to every abattoir in England and Wales, said he was finding it increasingly difficult to recruit staff and the situation would become critical if Brexit further restricted access to foreign workers.
Speaking at the 9th Training Meeting of the Veterinary Medical Association (EFOMV) at Lisbon Congress Centre, which featured 116 lectures and 72 speakers over two days, Dr Aldiss said: “The UK veterinary profession is reliant on the free movement of vets. Despite 95 per cent of Official Veterinarians coming from abroad, the British Government has failed to add vets to the Shortage Occupation List of high-demand employees.
“Since the EU referendum in 2016, many of my staff have returned to their countries of origin. Finding replacements has been incredibly difficult given the deepening uncertainties Brexit has created.
“To put it bluntly, the UK has become a hard sell.”
Dr Aldiss, also Secretary General of the Union of European Veterinary Hygienists, said it was time for UK politicians to admit that Brexit had been a disaster for the country.
He continued: “Brexit has been a test for MPs but, as events of the past few weeks have shown, few have been able to rise to the challenge.
“Most politicians I speak to, including many who campaigned for Leave, concede that Brexit is now a failed experiment. We are told that the House of Commons is strongly pro-Remain but too few of its occupants have been prepared to stand up and fight for the country to stay in the EU.”
Dr Aldiss said the current talks between Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn seemed to be pushing the UK towards a softer form of Brexit which lacked any clear advantages.
“I have long believed that, if Brexit does happen, it will inevitably bear a very close resemblance to the Norway model,” he said. “That will mean the UK being bound by most EU rules and regulations whilst losing the ability to influence them. It will be Brexit in name only but with the restrictions vastly outweighing any percieved benefits.”
The Eville & Jones Managing Director urged MPs to “take a responsible path” and revoke Article 50 or hand the decision back to the British people in a second referendum.
“I am strongly in favour of pulling the Brexit plug by revoking Article 50,” he said. “This would create the time and space for the UK to re-evaluate its relationship with our European neighbours and allow diplomatic bridges to be rebuilt.
“But should our politicians view that as a step too far, there is no sound reason not to consult with the electorate on what is best for our country. A recent poll of 9,500 voters in England, Scotland and Wales found that almost 60 per cent now want a final say on Brexit including a majority in nine out of 10 Parliamentary constituencies.”
Dr Aldiss added: “It is not generally a wise career option for MPs to tell voters that they’ve got it wrong but, in the 2016 referendum, UK voters did get it wrong.
“We must have honesty on all sides. Brexit has been a catastrophe but an enduring nightmare can yet be averted.”