Could Brexit mean end of NHS?

I earned headlines in Dublin last week for my contention at a European Movement/Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung conference at Iveagh House that a Hard Brexit would turn London into some kind of casino town, attracting the rich and playful but doing very little for those on low and fixed incomes elsewhere in the country as Sterling declined. In the room, however, there was more interest in my contention that Brexit could mean the end of the NHS.

I would, in fact, have thought this was obvious from the very start. Sir John Major warned before he referendum that Brexit would place the NHS (by which I mean a universal health service free at point of access) in the hands of people who did not care for it as a model. Figures last week showing that nurses seeking entry to the UK have declined by 96% – an inevitable consequence of the whole atmosphere of post-Brexit Britain – show that it will be impossible to staff the Service without investing huge amounts (ahem, like more than £350m/week) in training alone. Most of all, the simple and obvious fact is that restricting trade will make the country materially poorer, reducing Government revenues and, as an obvious consequence, Health Budgets.

This is why the whole £350m claim was so utterly bogus. Leaving the EU will inevitably reduce, not increase, UK Government revenue and thus cost the Health Service money as well as staff. Since it is already teetering, it is genuinely hard to see how it survives.

There was genuine debate at the event as to whether the recent UK election result raises the prospect of Brexit not in fact proceeding. I am genuinely unsure. However, if a referendum were re-run now, making the obvious point that Brexit almost certainly means the end of the NHS, I wonder just how many people would vote for it… what, indeed, is the “will of the people”?

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