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I qualified as a doctor in Italy in 1982 but felt I wanted to gain some experience in a different healthcare system. In January 1985, I moved to the UK with my then Italian girlfriend who is now my wife. My first proper job was in Stockport as a pathology SHO, whilst my wife started a paid PhD in electronic engineering at the University of Manchester.
I would not have come to work here if the UK had not been part of the EU. The recognition of my medical qualifications and the fact that no work permit was required, for both myself and my girlfriend, were important factors in our decision. Perhaps more importantly, I did not feel I was a migrant.
At the time, I was an EU citizen moving into a fellow EU country under freedom of movement. I then worked as a microbiology registrar in Oxford and as a senior registrar in London. In 1996 I took on a microbiology consultant post in Sunderland, where I have worked since.
By this stage it was apparent we would not go back to Italy, so both myself and my wife acquired British nationality in order to have the full right to vote and to feel full members of British society.
All four of us, including our two sons, have dual British and Italian nationality. I define myself as a British Italian and have now spent more than half of my life in England.
After the Brexit vote in June 2016 I was gutted. I felt as if I had been personally rejected from my adoptive country. Had I made the wrong choice when I moved to the UK in 1985? Two German colleagues of mine, both consultants in my hospital, left in 2017 to go and live in France. This is not really an option for me as I am close to retirement and my two sons have grown up and work here. Although I am sure had this happened some years ago then this may have been different.
Initially, I did not quite understand why Brexit had happened. When I moved into the UK, I did not feel the local culture was very different from my culture; maybe my lasagne recipe is slightly different, but the fundamental values and professional standards are the same.
It is discouraging to think that maybe I was wrong about this. Perhaps all this time myself and others like me were perceived as EU migrants and ultimately, as a problem. I personally think we all have to do our bit to improve society. As a result of Brexit, I have now joined a political party and have started campaigning for a People's Vote.
I am retiring next year but I am going to carry on doing things with others, hoping to achieve a greater good. I find all of this helps with morale. Despite what our Prime Minister recently said, I do not think I jumped any queue in 1985.
Dr Giuseppe Enrico Bignardi is a microbiology consultant working in Sunderland.
I’m German and have worked in the NHS for 25 years. BREXIT has polarised society (even my English in-laws). The UK has to have a look at itself as to why they rely so heavily on foreign doctors. I did not steal anyone’s job.
The irony of all the immigration discussion is that the minority of immigrants are from the EU.........
I think it will only be clear in 20 years if it was all worth it. I sincerely hope so for the country’s sake.
An excellent and impassioned article by Giuseppe. Doctors from the EU and elsewhere have sustained the NHS for years. Do not forget the savings made by the UK in using doctors trained in other countries. The referendum result was a kick in the teeth for these valuable contributers to the UK.
I am native English, completely ashamed of my country and what it has done. I am very sad that so many commentators on here no longer feel at home, and that they are never quite accepted. Some- many, if not most-of us do accept you completely. I too am working for a People's Vote and hope we can reverse Brexit and then return to trying to create a decent society.
As a retired GP & an enthusiastic Brexiteer I feel Dr Bignardi's concerns are misplaced. He & his family have made a valuable contribution to British society & they have as much right as any other British citizens to remain in the UK. Furthermore, I welcome their staying here.
Having spoken to many Brexiteers, the big issue is sovereignty rather than immigration. We do not wish to be ruled by a corrupt inefficient anti-democratic unelected self-serving bureaucracy. This should be of as much concern to other EU countries as it is to the British.
As far as immigration is concerned, the principal concern is unskilled immigration which applies as much to non-EU citizens as it does to those from the EU. It seems ridiculous to be importing unskilled workers from abroad when we have plenty of unskilled British workers on the unemployment register. Furthermore, this plentiful supply of cheap unskilled foreign labour is depressing the wages of the poorest members of society to the point where many don't want the jobs at all & those that do have to claim benefits because their earnings are insufficient to meet their living costs. Skilled immigrants are no problem provided they have jobs to go to.
I was born here (UK) and have always felt European since my first visit to the US more than 40 years ago. I had by then spent many nights in European bars usually not speaking the local language, but feeling comfortable. My first evening in a bar in the US was a stark contrast. I thought I could understand the language but I felt uncomfortable and alien although I had to European colleagues. Since then I have considered myself European first and British second and am as concerned as Guiseppe by the stampede towards Brexit.
As an Italian and Canadian, I didn't feel I needed a 3rd citizenship after I arrived in the UK in 1990 from Italy. I fully agree with Dr Bignardi on all other points and I know that many colleagues will not understand our perspective or may not be interested. Having married a Scot, I felt completely accepted by my adopted family but not similarly by my adopted country, but it is, admittedly, quite a subtle feeling which may have more to do with professional medical attitudes than anything else. Britain needs to look at its demographics. The baby boomers are ageing, the workforce is shrinking in relative terms, there are vacancies everywhere from doctors to teachers to fruit-pickers and lorrydrivers. Migrants are needed. The irony is that should Brexit occur (yes I'm still hopeful it won't), the floodgates will remain open for migrants but it will be more bureaucratic and take longer. My Italian medical degree was fully valid in 1990, as was Dr Bignardi's, it only needed n authenticated translation. Subsequently this recognition was legislated for, which was probably what was being referred to in reference to 1995 changes. If this hadn't been the case, I would probably have gone back to Canada, where I grew up but where there was no automatic recognition if the degree. No system is perfect and unfortunately poor quality doctors (both British and non!) do practice in the UK. The British NHS should be robust enough to capture this, but til we stop spending all our politicians' time on Brexit matters, they will have little time to address the real problems of this vibrant and (usually) welcoming country. By the way, Scottish Gov is paying for EU citizen pilot registration scheme for NHS workers, a small but appreciated gesture.
I have been also here 11 years
I am tired and fed up
Recently bullied at work and thinking about leaving
It is not anymore the place to be
Well written. Just to add, the settlement status does not give the same rights as British citizenship it much rather underlines that these are 2nd class citizens who can't vote and probably will be excluded from referenda that matter to them!
The NHS is great (or was) - that's at least partly my reason why I am still here.
Lets not forget, the majority in the UK is and has been against Brexit. The so called referendum excluded those who were most in favour of staying in the EU: British citizens living abroad for many years, EU citizens living here for many years, young people who are now older than 18 ....
Why are the Brexiteers worried about a more democratic referendum that gives all people a chance to vote on more and new facts? Because they know that they would loose it. And rightly so. (Otherwise they would have to follow there main argument that British democracy is better and offer a real peoples vote on facts.)
We EU citizens have an advantage too - we can go, but I worry about all the others often poor and disadvantaged who can't just leave after Brexit.
Thank you Guiseppe for this description of how you feel as a doctor from an European country who contributes to society but feels unwelcome. I feel so much the same - I am a German GP who came to UK in 1996 initially for 6 months to have some foreign experience but loved the NHS and its culture so much that I am still here. However I am totally gutted with the Referendum - for a start that I was not allowed to vote but I would also agree that I have never felt at home and I am shocked at the hostility towards us Europeans which has become so much more noticeable since. I am considering my options depending from further developments with Brexit but quite likely will go back to Germany as the NHS is going downhill anyway with the Government not being interested in it and future prospects for stable living standards and my children are much better on the Continent.
I am an Asian immigrant, and have contributed to the NHS over several years. My vote was to stay in the EU as I believed that this would mean a more open continent, an example for the rest of the globe, and perhaps provide a better society for our children.
However, I was not completely surprised by the results of the referendum. There seemed to me (at least some years ago) that there was a three tier system; One for the British who were on top on the pecking order, then the EU citizens - who do not need to take an English exam and are exempted from examinations to work in medical jobs the U.K (i.e have their medical degrees from EU countries valid in the U.K) and last were rest of the world (Asian and African immigrants predominantly) - who have not only to prove that their medical qualifications are good enough but also have to take an English test although they have had English as their first language in school!
Although, Brexit is not the answer to negate these inequalities; I still hope that one day there are less "walls" and a more equal society. The British known for their tolerance and being pioneers in many aspects of human rights will hopefully lead the way in creating this.
The detailed articles like this I highly appreciate, thank you for taking the time to write these things
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