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In career terms, junior doctor Anna Riemen appeared to have all her ducks in a row.
The Dundee University graduate had taken a break from specialty training in trauma and orthopaedics to complete a PhD in transformational medicine as a Wellcome Trust clinical fellow in Aberdeen.
The plan was to step back in to specialty training then apply for consultant posts, ideally in her beloved Scotland.
But events on 23 June changed all that – throwing Miss Riemen’s life and career plans into disarray. As a German national, albeit someone who has lived in Scotland for 16 years, the vote for the UK to leave the European Union means that in as little as two years time, she may no longer have the right to stay and work here.
‘I chose to come to Dundee University (initially to study biochemistry) because the course was very practical, and I liked that,’ she says. ‘Dundee always felt very welcoming, open and friendly – I’ve experienced no racism at all.
‘I chose to stay and work here because I’ve always liked the idea and principles of the NHS: I prefer it to the insurance model, or the private model, because I think it’s better for people. Plus, the training here is well-structured and respected.
‘Until now, I’d been planning to stay and continue working here, and that’s still my plan, but I don’t know if it will be possible. It’s definitely looking rather more wobbly.’
It’s not clear how many doctors in the UK are, like Miss Riemen, EU nationals, and how many are wondering what their future holds. But in Scotland alone, the GMC registered just over 1,100 European Economic Area-qualified doctors as of December 2014, around five per cent of the total. This obviously does not include Miss Riemen and others who did their medical under-graduate training in the UK.
The loss of doctors in her position would leave a huge gap in a country where clinicians are already leaving to work in other areas such as Australia.
Having made such a strong commitment to the UK, how did she feel about the EU referendum? ‘I didn’t really think that the UK would vote to leave, because everyone I knew was voting to stay, although I knew it was a risk,’ she says.
‘On the night of the referendum I did wait up for a while, and I saw the result from Newcastle, and it didn’t look good. I suppose I felt quite sorry, but I was still hopeful.
‘In the morning, when I saw the result, I felt upset. One of the scariest things is that the government didn’t seem to have a plan: they’d let this happen without a plan in place.
‘Plus, I believe in the European Union. I feel it has been so important for creating peace across Europe. And it worries me that the rhetoric we’ve been seeing in Germany and France, and in the UK Leave campaign – the anti-immigrant rhetoric – is building up bad feeling. It’s what happened before Hitler came to power: it created a slow current of language change against foreigners.
Miss Riemen says she hasn’t personally felt any antagonism, but is aware that some colleagues have. One friend marrying a Lithuanian national was advised that he should take her name, for example, as it sounded less ‘foreign’. ‘It worries me that the UK might become more closed off and scared of “different” people.’
But there are also practical considerations for her personally. ‘I will still try to remain. I can apply for dual citizenship while the UK is still in the EU (Germany does not allow dual citizenship with non-EU countries) but I don’t know what’s going to happen when the UK leaves. I would keep German citizenship rather than take UK citizenship outside the EU.
‘I’m also currently checking my qualifications to make sure they would be recognised in Germany if I had to go back.
‘I want to stay here in Scotland. It feels like home. And it’s very upsetting to feel that I might not be able to.’
Jennifer Trueland is the BMA’s Scottish correspondent
Firstly sympathy with Dr Rieman for what is an anxiety provoking situation. Our government was stupid not to think of the possibility of a 'leave' vote and to plan for it, but then many in it (and a large section of the UK population) stupidly didn't think we would!
On the other hand how worried should non UK origin doctors from the EU be? The NHS / healthcare in the UK cannot manage without staff originally from outside the UK. The UK is clearly not is a position to cast away such valuable people, like Dr Rieman Those of us working in healthcare should be re-assuring and valuing EU origin doctors not re-running 'project fear'. Leaving the EU however gives Britain an opportunity to relax movement in to shortage fields.
In addition it is not without irony that Dr Rieman is working in a country that nearly left the UK, a political arrangement with a much longer history of economic and social success than the EU. Scotland would have been immediately non viable economically if it had (given the oil price crash), leading to serious consequences for healthcare in Scotland (about which there was oddly a lot of silence by the BMA). Scotland (by a narrow margin) decided to remain and we in Britain decided to leave (by a narrow margin). Such is democracy.
As for the EU lets stop conflating Europe with an organisation, to which not all European countries belong. We in Britain cannot and will not stop being European simply because we are not part of the EU. In building a new and healthier relationship with the EU (could anyone say the UK had a healthy relationship with the EU?), we should not throw away the good parts. We should remember that its lack of accountability and controlling one size fits all formula is a significant factor in why its popularity is not universal.
I don't think you have a problem; as I understand it after 5 years residence in this country you have the automatic right to stay. Any way, why are we all so up in arms? no-one wishes to send off a person holding down a job that would not otherwise be filled and isn't it up to all of us to stress that we have voted to leave the EU, not its peoples or its principles.
Dr Riemen, I appreciate your efforts to tell us about you. NHS needs doctors like you and it can't sustain itself without non-British doctors. I am still optimistic that your job is very secure in Scotland. Best wishes..
The UK discourse for some 20 years has been moving virtually completely to the EU as a shop, where 'British Exceptionalism' (as the bon mot with a wry smile goes) has been focussing on UK-centric benefits, rather than recalling the EU's origin (with the Steel Union) which Robert Schuman published on 9th May 1950, precisely 5 years and 1 day after Germany finally surrendered after some 60mill. deaths.
This publication marked the beginning of what Winston Churchill had called for in early 1946, namely 'to create the Federation of European States' so that we replace 1200 years of conflict and war with collaboration, solidarity and respect for human rights.
Not one of Britain's politicians, at least to me, seem to have demonstrated any true, rational and passionate leadership in sharing (reminding!) this vision with the electorate at any stage. An ahistorical approach in a country which prides itself on historical context and traditions, and which only very recently ran a campaign under the banner 'Better Together' in the Scottish referendum are rather confusing and isolating for those of us who have given some over 30 years of at times >96h contracted time to Britain's wonderful people and environment.
Britain remains in Europe, and the processes which the humanitarian refugee crisis has foisted on the EU will stand to gain hugely from a set of peoples of some 540mill to be able absorb (in most cases temporarily!) some 4-5mill individuals/families with some of the attendant risks that several countries, especially France & Germany are having to endure.
The lack of solidarity amongst other states in helping accommodate the helpless families is not being discussed as part of the reasons why we see increases in rejections and the manifold police reports of physical aggressions against property and sometimes persons.
Let us be an example of continental European influence to help rescue what we can from the shards of the messages that the unholy triumvirate of F., G., and J. have been proffering after the presumptive call of the referendum by the PR qualified former PM.
Otherwise, it will mean a return to continental EU for our family, all of our (highly qualified) youngsters insist on, unless Ms Fredirica Mogerhini's (EU Foreign Affairs / High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security), and her Italian, French, German, BENELUX colleagues' contingency plans which they have already been preparing in the run up to the referendum does find a respectful reception in a UK which is learning to be part of a European team, rather than being 'splendidly isolated' with US, and Commonwealth as it would seem to sometimes prefer. Sorry for the lengthy exposee from a continental European who sees Britain and its wonderful culture and diversity as being a pivotal part to help other European countries to learn from it (and help reduce the danger of the EU breaking up and our returning to a potential scenario of the pre 2nd WW constellations of competing, not collaborating or compromising states. Finally, for the shop keepers' amongst the 'out' campaign, IMF / OPEC / EU Commission (which included UK as a signator) sets the 'Annual Peace Dividend' of the EU for the EU as a whole at between £65-70 billion' !
No rebate, or 'out' benefits will, financially, ever outweigh this, not to speak of reparation costs, human costs, opportunity costs....etc.
Apologies for this exposee of only some of the issues as I see them from a continental European identity living and working since 1984 in the UK.
The only occupational groups that have anything to fear from Brexit are unskilled workers, particularly seasonal workers. Clearly Miss Riemen does not come into that category. As someone who voted Leave, I can assure her that she will be welcome to continue working in this country for as long as she wishes.
There is a comment about seasonal workers being compromised by Brexit. Australia has tight control of its borders but seasonal workers from every continent of the world are welcome to pick the fruit harvest but it is controlled.
I don't think any of the comments actually appreciate the psychological impact of settling in a country and then, after 15 years (or 25 in my case), being told that you may have to go after all. This issue should not be just a mere utilitarian assessment of whether this or the other model could be better in terms of controlling immigration, but rather a question of simple decency. Using us as a bargaining chip is just not on. And it isn't fair play. So, ironically, it just isn't very British.
I am also a EU citizen living and working in the UK for over 15 years; I am a aware as a consultant in the NHS I am not in the firing line of those asking to throw out those foreigners who claim benefits (often because they work in underpaid jobs and claim rightly in work benefits like their British counterparts) and refugees but I worry that the "gates" have opened to work up a language of blame - it is no longer the fault of politics & business and politicians for paying unstainable wages supplemented by in-work benefits (i.e. subsidies to industries employing them) but those scroungers claiming benefits, those coming from outside, those helpless and vulnerable. It is easy to blame the "other" the current climate of decreased sense of security and increased fear. the overall situation is more dangerous than for decades we need more trust and cooperation in Europe not less to remain avoid conflict and civil unrest and war.
No my job is not threatened and luckily I have not experienced any anti-immigrant" abuse/hatred personally - but I feel less welcome, not represented and isolated. Apart from few exceptions my British colleagues studiously avoid talking about Brexit related issues, it is not done.
One of my fellow countrymen when being locked up and later murdered by our fellow countrymen (i.e. the Nazis) said (loosely translated): When they took away one group of people I looked away I did not bother me enough, did not me; when they took away the next group of people I did not protest, it did not concern me -....... when they took away me there was no one left to protest" (his name was Dietrich Bonhoeffer) . therefore even though I am not threatened I feel it is very important to speak out and highlight the issues and keep doing this even if it is unpleasant and disturbing and annoying to some.
I enjoy living the UK but I want still feel welcome when I no longer work but claim my pension, and am no longer productive. Am happy to go dual citizenship because I like the UK I enjoy living here (I come to work a for a publicly funded health care system which I think is the fairest type of health system benefitting the most people) but will not give my national identity and EU passport.
What lot of silly nonsense.It is 100% certain that she will be able to remain and work in Scotland. She could have done so before the EU and can do so after Brexit.
PS to my previous comment after long day at work I managed to get my quotations wrong; the guy I loosely quoted was M. Niemoeller not D. Bonhoeffer, apologies for any confusion caused.
What quite a few people commenting here don't seem to understand is, that Dr Rieman even though would be able to stay, she would be facing the sad and difficult decision of either staying in UK and continue with the job she loves, or give up her her German citizenship. Look and feel a bit more deeply.
As a German national and doctor working in the NHS I am in the same position. I find it rather remarkable that most people who have left comments here have emphasised that Miss Riemen would almost certainly be allowed to stay as she is a valuable member of the society. It's not that I disagree with this notion, but it makes me wonder who makes the decision regarding who is a 'valuable' member of society and who is not, and on what basis. There can be little doubt that Brexit will have a negative effect on the economy and propagate isolationism in the UK, simultaneously threatening a union that has brought peace to Europe for the last 70 years.
Fears over being overwhelmed by unrestricted and therefore potentially unlimited EU migration at the unskilled end of the labour market is what has caused the referendum outcome. Such unrestricted migration is not the same as welcoming and accommodating refugees fleeing dire circumstances, but both types of migration have been lumped together by the xenophobes amongst us. It is time for the tolerant altruistic yet pragmatic people of the U.K. to ensure they use their normally quiet voices to ensure that their socially stable and fair society is not hijacked by xenophobes who view some human beings as more worthy than others. The U.K. that I know has a strong tradition of live and let live and a strong sense of social justice. Everyone now needs to be a vocal ambassador of these values to ensure the UK remains the vibrant wonderful place to live that it currently is. These values enhance traditional British culture - not erode it. On the flip side, desiring sensible immigration control is not the same thing as being a xenophobe or being anti-tolerant - it may just be pragmatism.