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Government’s no-deal Brexit policy on EU citizens finally shows ‘common-sense approach’

Responding to the Government’s no-deal Brexit policy paper on citizens’ rights1, published today, Dr Terry John, BMA international committee chair, said:

“Around 10 per cent 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 doctors2 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 will offer much-needed reassurance to EU citizens, but the Government has a truly mammoth task on its hands - it faces the prospect of having to process more than 3 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.

“The Government notes that the Withdrawal Agreement offers the best protection for both EU citizens living and working in the UK, and UK citizens living abroad in Europe. In reality, the only way to protect the rights we currently have is to remain in the EU.

“The BMA has been clear in the risks Brexit poses to the health of Britain and Europe, which is why it is absolutely vital that the public is given a final say on the final deal.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Read the full paper here.
  2. More information about our EU doctors survey is here.

For further information please contact:

British Medical Association, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JP
Telephone: 020 7383 6448 
Email: [email protected]
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