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EU doctors working in UK get assurance

No-deal Brexit paper is common sense, says BMA

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 07 December 2018

Doctors from the EU who currently work in the NHS have been given assurances about their ability to remain working here in a newly published government policy paper.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has hailed the Department for Exiting the European Union’s no-deal Brexit policy paper* on citizens’ rights as a “common sense” approach.

The paper says: “To remove any ambiguity about their future, the UK government wants to reassure EU citizens and their family members living in the UK that they are welcome to stay in the UK in the unlikely event of a ‘no deal’ scenario.”

The government was adopting an approach based on the Withdrawal Agreement and said it wanted its EU “friends … neighbours … colleagues” to stay in the UK, adding: “They will continue to be able to work, study, and access benefits and services in the UK on the same basis after we exit the EU as they do now.”

Responding to the paper, Dr Terry John, BMA international committee chair, said: “Around 10% of doctors working in the NHS in the UK are from the EU, caring for patients and making a valuable contribution to the health service at a time when there are staff shortages in many areas.

“Britain’s decision to leave the EU is causing a great deal of anxiety for these doctors, not least because of the uncertainty surrounding their future eligibility to live and work in the UK. For the last two years, the BMA has been urging the government to reassure EU doctors that their rights will be protected after Brexit, especially if the UK leaves without a deal.

“Our recent survey of EEA doctors showed that three-quarters were not convinced by the government’s pledges to protect their rights in the event of a no-deal, and that concerns around Brexit meant a third are considering leaving the UK.

“Today’s paper finally shows a common-sense approach to ensuring citizens’ rights in the short-term at least, but it’s appalling that it has taken the government so long to do so.”

The settled status programme described in the paper would offer reassurance to EU citizens, he said, but added: “The government has a truly mammoth task on its hands - it faces the prospect of having to process more than three million applications in 18 months – that’s more than 5,000 people a day – if all EU citizens living in the UK apply. The key question is whether the system will be able to cope.

“Furthermore, we are still yet to hear of what the long-term future immigration system will look like from 2021 or what system will apply to EU nationals who arrive in the UK after the 29 March 2019 but before the 31 December 2020 in the event of a ‘no deal’. It’s imperative that whatever is decided does not negatively impact the NHS workforce.”

*Citizens’ Rights - EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU Policy Paper Department for Exiting the European Union, December 2018.

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