BRITAIN’S HORSE POPULATION may be the only winners from the decision of the majority of their owners to leave the European Union, BVA members heard in a debate at the association’s annual congress in London last month.
The session was added to the congress programme to allow members to voice their views on both the challenges and opportunities presented by Britain withdrawing from the trading bloc.
Alick Simmons chairs the BVA working party set up to shape the association’s strategy towards negotiations on future links with the European Commission and the 27 remaining member states.
Asked to suggest some of the positive outcomes of the Brexit referendum result, Mr Simmons, the former deputy CVO for the UK, noted the potential effect on the availability of medicines for the equine practitioner.
“Those of you who work in equine practice will know that the number of medicines you can use in a patient has been reduced because of the desire to treat horses as both a food animal and as a companion animal.
“If we break away completely from the EU that gives us the opportunity to establish a different set of rules on the approval of medicines for horses.”
The working party aims to complete its investigation by April of next year. In the meantime, Mr Simmons hoped that the association’s membership would be able to offer other examples of the potential benefits of leaving the EU, although he feared that the referendum vote could have significant detrimental effects on the profession, its patients and clients.
One major concern would be the effects of any measures that prevented EU-trained veterinarians from working in the UK. Chris Tufnell, president of the RCVS and chairman of its committee looking at the implications of Brexit, warned that 50% of new admissions to the RCVS Register came from overseas. He said the UK profession will need to think about how it can meet its manpower needs if EU-trained vets are no longer available.
Mark Bowen, past president of BEVA, said that even the one presumed benefit of Brexit may have an unintended consequence for the profession.
He warned: “Please don’t underestimate the importance of the human food chain as an end-of-life opportunity. Please don’t get rid of that option for us.”