The Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) of the British Medical Association was held online on 15th September. One of the motions selected by participants was the following:
Motion by South Central Regional Council:
That this meeting is concerned that a further peak of COVID-19 infection may occur at the same time as the Brexit transition period ends and that:-
- a departure from the Single Market and Customs Union will seriously threaten supply chains particularly in pharmaceuticals, medical devices and protective equipment and the NHS staffing shortage will be greatly exacerbated unless the problems of EU citizens’ rights have been effectively resolved;
- a departure from EU procurement arrangements and from Euratom could result in severe shortages of medical products and nuclear isotopes;
- the government has failed to make arrangements to replace the work previously done by UK membership of The European Medicines Agency;
- medical research, including into COVID-19 and the production of appropriate vaccines, requires international collaboration, which will be severely damaged by the absence of the necessary structures;
It therefore insists that the government take all necessary steps to avoid a no deal departure from the institutions of the European Union.
Proposer’s speech to the Representative Body (Peter Burke):
” I want to talk about Brexit. I’m afraid this has raised its head once again. When this motion was first proposed, which was a couple of months ago, we were still talking about the possibility of extending the transition period. Now that’s going to end on the 1st of January. Today is very significant because the it is the 15th of September and one month from today is the absolute deadline for any decision to be made about what form of Brexit we are going to have.
As you know the government has been extremely dilatory about its negotiations, it’s been negative in its approach to the European Union, it’s been destructive in its policies which I would say are verging on the kamikaze. We are going to be facing an extreme crisis for the health service not only because of Brexit but because it will coincide with a further increase in coronavirus and possibly a flu epidemic as well. and we have all the problems listed in the motion, which include of course supply chains for drugs and appliances, staffing problems, problems with Euratom, radionuclide products and so on and so forth. I don’t need to list them all, you’ve heard them all before.
BMA policy has long been that Brexit is bad for your health. I don’t need to remind you of that. The problem that we face now is that this government is pushing forward in a manner that is completely reckless. Last night’s vote in the House of Commons, as you know, demonstrated that the government is prepared to break the law in the name of Brexit. This Representative Body needs to make its voice heard very clearly. We don’t want to be seen to be complicit in any of this. I believe quite frankly that all of us recognise the damage Brexit will do. We have a duty of care to the 10% of our members who are from EU countries, and we have a duty of care to our patients. In my opinion this motion shouldn’t just be passed overwhelmingly. In order to make our view clear we should pass the motion unanimously.
This motion was passed with 94% of participants voting for, 4% against, 2% abstaining. The debate can be viewed here.
The motion reflects a consistent pro-European policy held by the BMA. At the 2018 ARM it declared itself against Brexit and in favour of a People’s Vote. At this ARM it confirmed that it viewed a no-deal Brexit as a major threat to the NHS, and to be avoided at all costs. In taking this view it joins many other organisations, including the CBI, the TUC and the NFU.
Dr Peter Burke is a GP, Chair of Oxford For Europe and BMA Secretary, Oxfordshire.