May's post-Brexit immigration policy could make it difficult for the UK to fill key roles in the food industry

LONDON — Britain faces having to train an expensive group of animal inspectors after Brexit to replace work currently carried out by European Union staff, but senior vets have warned that the UK may struggle to find enough qualified staff under its strict new immigration policy.

A team of 170 European Commission staff currently carry out hundreds of inspections a year around the world, visiting farms and production facilities to ensure that they comply with the EU’s strict controls on food imports.

Prime Minister Theresa May intends to roll all EU law into UK law after Brexit, meaning that it could be required to carry out its own inspections but unable to access EU staff as easily as before.

Gudrun Ravetz, president of the British Veterinary Association, told the Financial Times that the UK’s immigration policy would need to accommodate EU vets after Brexit.

He said: “The government will have to ensure that we have enough veterinary surgeons to undertake these essential roles. Our current workforce of official veterinarians is heavily reliant on non-British EU vets and that is why the BVA has been lobbying hard for the government to guarantee the ongoing working rights of our EU colleagues in the UK.”

Upcoming EU work this year reportedly includes trips to inspect poultry in Morocco, fish in Canada, and cows and pigs in Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa.

The Conservative party committed earlier in May to cut immigration to “tens of thousands” from its current figure, which was around 273,000 last year.

The UK Food Standards Agency told the Financial Times: “Food safety audit and assurance is being considered as part of wider work looking at potential audit and assurance arrangements after the UK leaves the EU.”

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