Cheese. In the ever more bizarre world of Brexit, we shouldn’t be surprised if future historians choose to classify the UK’s membership of the EU with reference to this most iconic of French delights.
Our initial efforts to join the then EEC (European Economic Community) in the 1960s were vetoed by the French president, Charles de Gaulle, a man perhaps best known for wondering (about his own country) ‘how can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?’
Fifty years on and the stench/alluring scent (delete according to your political views) of French cheese continues to permeate British politics. The question today, however, is Cantal or Camembert or rather hard or soft Brexit.
A ‘soft’ Brexit would result in the UK retaining some type of membership of the EU’s single market while continuing to accept, to some degree at least, the free movement of people.
Conversely, a ‘hard’ Brexit is likely to reflect the UK Government’s stated objective that ‘we will decide for ourselves how we control immigration’ and result in the UK leaving the EU’s single market.
Of these two options, it’s probably the Cantal which would have the biggest impact upon the UK’s medical profession.
With Europe’s medical workforces having become increasingly integrated and interdependent – more than 30,000 registered doctors in the UK gained their primary qualification in another EEA (European Economic Area) state – free movement plays a crucial role in doctors’ professional development and in meeting varying medical workforce requirements in the UK.
Comparable levels of pan-European professional migration also exist in the medical research and innovation sector, with 15 per cent of all academic staff at UK universities originating from other EU member states. The importance of pan-European collaboration to this sector is axiomatic and requires no further elucidation.
The impact of a ‘hard’ Brexit on these sectors is difficult to quantify but even the most optimistic Brexiteer wouldn’t deny that restrictions to the free movement of people will prove challenging, in the short term at the very least, to these key sectors.
Our partners in numerous pan-European and national medical associations share our view that Brexit will have profound repercussions for the European medical profession and its continuing ability to provide high-quality healthcare across the continent.
Thankfully, and while they also recognise that Brexit will fundamentally alter the UK and the EU, they’re committed to helping us ensure that it doesn’t threaten Europe’s health.
You don’t need to be a turophile to recognise that the smelliest cheeses are often the tastiest. Let’s hope that the stink around Brexit is as misleading as that coming from a ripe Livarot.
Paul Laffin is BMA EU public affairs manager
Can the BMA save our money by doing away with the EU department?
God knows money is desperately needed to fight for better pay, terms and co nditions, and we really don't need an EU department at all.
Speaking as an EU national working in the NHS.... All this whilst the working conditions and pay are so dire? If the BMA keeps wasting all its money attention on such navel-gazing political agendas as this, alcohol pricing, the human rights act malarky etc then there will be no workforce left to look to after
I am getting my British passport (this is something an EU national can do, you know) then going to the USA. Your EU nationals are leaving the terrible conditions too, that Brexit has nothing to do with.
To the medic above , goodbye