A ‘no-deal’ Brexit will impact heavily on equine movements and could see demand for vets and laboratory services skyrocketing when the UK stands alone from the EU – and jeopardise the burgeoning international competitive scene.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) this week warned that a no-deal Brexit would lead to a surge in demand for vets and labs at a time when the workforce is already facing significant shortfalls in capacity.

A technical notice governing animal movements, published on Monday by Defra, suggested that in a no-deal scenario there could be hurdles to clear before horses are permitted travel to the EU from the UK. The UK would have to apply to be a listed country before horses would be able to move, but they would have to be subjected to a wide range of disease testing carried out by vets with the required qualifications before they were cleared for travel.

The increased cost if additional blood tests are required is estimated to be between £200 and £500, depending on the third country category the UK is placed in after leaving the EU.

Under the current system, a vet needs to hold a recognised equine exports qualification, in addition to their veterinary degree, in order to be authorised to sign an export health certificate for horses prior to travel. However, in a recent BVA survey of Official Veterinarians, two-thirds of respondents who currently hold this module said they were not planning to renew their qualification when it is next required.

Simon Doherty, the BVA president, said: “A no-deal Brexit could see a surge in demand for vets to carry out disease checks on horses, heaping pressure on this specialist section of the workforce when they are already experiencing uncertainty and shortages.

“It’s doubly worrying that two-thirds of vets holding the required equine exports module plan to drop this qualification. This is partly due to some concerns about the current training and revalidation system being onerous, costly and not fit for purpose, and we have been working with the Animal and Plant Health Agency to help identify where improvements could be made.

“Finally, if this situation comes to pass, it will be critical that laboratories have the capacity and required support to deal with such a huge increase in demand for their services. We will continue to engage with the government on these points as part of our wider activity supporting members and exploring the potential impacts of a no-deal Brexit on the workforce and animal welfare,” he added.

The technical notice, ‘Taking horses abroad if there’s no Brexit deal’, can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/taking-horses-abroad-if-theres-no-brexit-deal--2/taking-horses-abroad-if-theres-no-brexit-deal