When even hardline Brexiteer Nigel Farage is admitting Brexit could be ‘bad news for British farmers’, you know things are not looking pretty for the industry, says Paul Brannen, North East MEP and Labour’s EU agriculture spokesman.
The summer recess is well and truly here, but the Government didn’t break off before dropping some Brexit bombshells, such as plans for stockpiling food and medicine in the event of no deal.
The bad Brexit-related news for the summer didn’t stop there – we also found out that the UK is now facing a serious shortage of meat inspectors, also known as vets.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) warned the company which supplies Official Veterinarians (OVs) has reached ‘crisis point’ and blamed Brexit uncertainty for what they revealed to be a loss of 20 vets a month.
Vets are crucial in ensuring meat standards are maintained as they audit and inspect meat processing sites, certify imports and exports, and carry out official disease control measures. Unfortunately for us, they are also mostly from outside the UK.
In what must have come as a shock to everyone, even notorious Brexiteer Nigel Farage agreed this week that the shortage could lower standards for British food products and ‘it could be bad news for British farmers’.
The reason is very simple. We need OVs in order to continue exporting our produce with no barriers, as their input and expertise underpins the UK’s high standards of animal health and welfare which contributes to public health.
As the President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) rightly pointed out earlier this year, these standards can only be maintained with a robust, sustainable veterinary workforce in place.
It’s hard to see how this will be manageable after we leave the EU, as it is estimated that in food safety and hygiene alone 95 per cent of OVs working in abattoirs are from overseas, with the large majority graduating in the EU.
As a result, the BVA has urged the Home Office to add veterinary surgeons to its Shortage Occupation List – but would that be enough in the face of constant Brexit uncertainty over people’s rights post 29 March 2019?
This is just one of the many examples of how leaving the EU has thrown the lives of millions of EU citizens living in our country in complete limbo, which in turn is starting to take a toll on our economy.
This is only the beginning of many warnings becoming a Brexit reality.