Tougher post-Brexit immigration rules worsening Britain’s vets shortage, MPs and immigration law experts warn

A less well-documented casualty of Britain’s departure from the EU is the veterinary sector.

A less well-documented casualty of Britain’s departure from the EU is the veterinary sector. Britain has historically been reliant on EU-trained vets. Post-Brexit regulations have had a negative impact on the nation’s veterinary workforce, with the number of EU vets having more than halved since Brexit. This is on top of pay freezes for public sector vets, and stricter animal controls, including visa and food security requirements, which are also having a detrimental impact on Britain’s veterinary industry.

A letter to the environment, food and rural affairs secretary Steve Barclay, calls for a number of changes to help attract interest in the sector. This includes greater funding for veterinary degrees, higher salaries for public health vet roles, and a reduction in the minimum salary required to obtain a skilled visa for overseas vets.

The letter was penned by Conservative MP Robert Goodwill, chair of the environment, food and rural affairs committee. It cited a shortage of vets as a major concern, noting how many vets are leaving the profession because of high levels of stress, feeling undervalued and a poor work/life balance.

In December, the Home Office announced a package of measures designed to cut migration and put British workers first in line for jobs. The changes, which came into effect on April 4, included increasing the salary threshold for those arriving in Britain on a Skilled Worker Visa by 48 percent from £26,000 to £38,000.

Immigration law experts have warned that the UK veterinary sector will ‘inevitably’ miss out on recruiting overseas vets because of the tougher immigration rules.

“The five-point immigration plan has been introduced to reduce net migration figures, but could potentially add pressure to vet practices already struggling to fill vacancies – after all, sick animals can’t wait for care. The 48% salary rise from £26,200 to £38,700 comes into force on 4 April and will inevitably rule out some overseas vets from being recruited on a Skilled Worker Visa,” Julie Moktadir, a partner with the law firm Stone King and head of its immigration department, told Vet Times.

The letter sent to Steve Barclay cited the new minimum salary threshold as the “most immediate concern,” warning that it will “preclude all but highly experienced professionals from coming to work in the UK.”

The MPs are also urging for more funding for veterinary degrees, which are the most expensive degrees to deliver, costing between £27,000 and £32,000 per student per year. Additionally, the MPs have suggested a student debt forgiveness scheme is introduced, to attract graduates to work in “particularly hard-hit specialisms and regions of the UK,” such as public health roles and in rural areas.

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