College calls for certainty around the rights of EU nationals working in the UK

The RCVS has called upon the Prime Minister to prioritise giving greater certainty to EU nationals working in the UK in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.

This follows the publication of our report looking at the impact of last year’s referendum vote on European veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses. The findings show that the lingering uncertainty around the right to work here is leading many to question seriously whether they should stay in the UK.

Earlier this year we commissioned the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) to send a confidential survey to 5,572 veterinary surgeons who graduated from a vet school in the EU (excluding the UK) and who are registered as veterinary surgeons in this country, as well as around 100 non-UK EU-trained veterinary nurses.

The survey asked a wide range of questions about how these individuals felt that the vote to leave the EU had affected them, how they felt about their future working in the UK veterinary sector and how they felt the College had dealt with the issue of Brexit. Some 3,078 people (including 19 veterinary nurses) responded to the survey – a response rate of 55.3%.

Here is a summary of some key findings from the survey:

  • Demographics: The gender split for responses was 60% female and 40% male, while the mean average age was 36. Some 87% of respondents were working full-time.
  • Country of qualification: The largest group of respondents (22%) qualified in Spain, with Italy (14%), Poland (10%), Romania (9%), Portugal (7%), Germany (6%) and the Republic of Ireland (6%) following. The remaining 26% qualified in 18 different countries, each of which accounted for fewer than 5% of EU registrants. Although these figures relate to country of qualification and not the nationality of the individuals, in 91% of cases these were the same.
  • Area of work: Of those responding the majority (78%) worked in clinical practice. Of the 603 who do not work in clinical practice 38% worked for the Food Standards Agency, 21% worked for the Animal and Plant Health Agency and 18% worked in higher education.
  • Continuing to work in the UK: Some 73% of respondents said they would like to continue to work in the UK. However, 41% of respondents said they were not optimistic about their future, 67% were finding the uncertainty about their future difficult, 64% felt less welcome, 44% felt fearful about the future and 40% felt they had reduced job security. Furthermore, 40% of respondents said they were more likely to leave, with 18% actively looking for work outside the UK. Some 79% are awaiting the outcome of the Brexit negotiations before deciding on what to do.
  • Impact on veterinary sector: 88% of respondents believed that the UK will have a shortage of veterinary surgeons if non-UK EU national vets are no longer welcome in the country. Some 77% also believed that EU-graduate vets are also less likely to apply to join the UK Register.
  • Experiences of prejudice: 16% of respondents said they had personally experienced prejudice at work following the vote to leave the EU with 22% saying they had observed it.
  • Support from the College: 74% of respondents said they were happy with the support and advice provided by the RCVS so far.

Commenting on the survey result, Chris Tufnell, President of the RCVS, said: “This survey makes the strongest possible case that the Government must act fast to reassure our EU colleagues in practices, universities and industry that they are welcome to stay in the UK.

“EU vets and vet nurses make a massive contribution to the UK veterinary sector and the health and welfare of animals and humans.

“Beyond this commitment we will also be lobbying the Government that, after we leave the EU, suitably qualified vets from overseas are prioritised for UK work visas or equivalent, particularly if they are working in public health and the meat industry.

“I have written to Michael Gove, the new Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, outlining our position and our Brexit Principles and have invited him to visit the RCVS at Belgravia House to discuss these further. I hope that he accepts our offer so that we can have some constructive talks on these matters.

“On a personal note, I am very sorry to see that a significant proportion of respondents had experienced prejudice at work. This is simply not acceptable and we, as a regulator, have been conscious that ‘anti-foreigner’ rhetoric in the country at large could have an effect on hard-working and talented members of our profession, which is why we raised the matter in our letter to the Prime Minister last year.”

The findings of interviews with a sample of non-UK EU-graduated veterinary surgeons working in the UK will be published over the summer. Meanwhile, over the next two years, IES will also be carrying out two further pieces of research that will track the opinions and intentions of non-UK EU-graduated veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses over time as Brexit policies are formed and the future status of non-UK nationals made clearer.

To read the IES report and the College’s three Brexit Principles in full, please visit our Brexit page.


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