The cost of Brexit – continued…

Labour Party

The Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) announced yesterday that it expects the final Brexit bill to be in the region of £37.1 billion. That’s over £30 billion more than the Government said it has set aside (for the initial transition), something I highlighted on my blog earlier this week.

The OBR also said that it expects Britain will continue to make payments to the EU until 2064.

Its figures are, obviously, always based on sound evidence and on this occasion the estimates were put together using a joint report published by UK and EU Governments covering phase one of the Brexit negotiations. The report provided “sufficient evidence” which enabled the OBR to make its calculations.

But it’s not only the spiralling cost of Brexit which is a problem for the UK.

Again, on this blog I have discussed the serious implications Brexit will have for the NHS. And yesterday the independent research body, UK in a Changing Europe, published its report of the effect Brexit will have on the NHS. It challenged the now known spurious claim made by the Leave campaign plastered across its campaign bus during the referendum that the £350 million a week spent in the EU could be diverted back directly to the NHS. The report identified four specific threats facing the NHS because of Brexit.

These are:
1. NHS funding: Despite the claim that more money will be spent on the NHS the report claims it will in fact receive less and asserts this is a result of the slowing down of economic growth.

2. Staffing problems: If immigration rules become so restrictive that it essentially prohibits health and social care workers from coming to work in the UK then staffing shortages will be an inevitable consequence, the report found.

In any case the 11,000 EU doctors working here along with the 20,000 EU nurses and 100,000 social care staff all already doubtful about their future with figures emerging that EU nationals in these sectors are departing the UK. There was a staggering 92% drop in the registration of nurses from the EU in 2017. It’s hardly surprising-we don’t know what the immigration rules will be, and such uncertainty is not exactly an enticing prospect for any EU national seeking work in the UK.

3. British patients travelling to the EU: Private travel insurance will be essential to holiday makers. If the UK fails to negotiate continued access to the European Health Insurance card which allows EU nationals to access health care when in another EU country the individuals will need to make alternative arrangements before travelling which removes the ease of travelling throughout the EU.

4. Access to drugs: Like so many other issues, May has said she wants the UK to remain part of the European Medicines Agency, but any special agreement for this to continue has yet to be negotiated. Access for UK patients to life saving drugs will be delayed if Britain is not a member of the Agency and if it wants to remain then the UK will have to continue to adhere to EU law which underpins the regulation of pharmaceuticals.

The threat to the NHS alone provides a compelling case to want to examine our future relationship with the EU (as it currently stands).

The reality is that we need the EU to keep our NHS healthy. These reports from the last 24 hours alone show the real cost implications for the UK if Britain leaves the European Union next March and new and credible research is published weekly (if not more regularly) highlighting similar concerns.

Uncertainty over Brexit risks delays in access to lifesaving treatment

Labour Party

The Shadow Secretary for Health, Jonathan Ashworth, visited Brussels yesterday and told the Socialist and Democrat Group that it is utterly unacceptable for there to be any uncertainty about access to medicines and other related arrangements after Brexit.

He reiterated throughout the speech that Labour would seek to continue to be part of European Medicines Agency and reciprocal health care schemes after Brexit. He also said that a Labour Government would ensure that medical staff and those who work in the care sector would be able to continue to come to the UK to work post Brexit.

But in terms to accessing life saving treatment it is an absolute red line (for Labour) to ensure there are no delays. This shouldn’t in many ways be an ambitious goal, it is something that should be an absolute priority for all sides. But, to be clear, without a firm agreement in place we risk that very thing-huge delays. The situation in Switzerland provides a good illustration of delays which can occur without any agreements in place. Despite having numerous trade agreements in place Switzerland has nothing covering gaining access to medicines and as a result its access to new medicines on average arrive 157 days later than the rest of the EU.

“Disease has no borders,” he told the group referring to how crucial it is to cooperate in this area. He also explained that it would be irresponsible to dismiss the medical benefits which have built up over the course of our relationship with Europe. To dismiss this would be a “great folly”, he said.

He is right, not only does any ambiguity or lack of cooperation in this area mean delays in accessing potentially lifesaving treatments but what a waste to not continue to share information and to continue the relationship in any way possible in such an important area.

In relation to the NHS workforce, Labour he said, would guarantee European workers’ rights ensuring the NHS and care sector were still able to recruit staff post Brexit. Official figures provide clear evidence of how reliant we are on those who come here to work from the EU. For example, some 167,500 European nationals work across the health and care sectors with 90,000 in adult social care and 60,000 in the NHS itself. Furthermore, estimates show between 7-10% of doctors currently working in the UK are from the EEA and some 21,000 nurses are from the EU.

In September NHS figures revealed that 10,000 employees including nurses and doctors had quit. It’s not a surprise that so many health care workers are choosing to terminate their employment in the UK- their future here is for now uncertain.

This environment of uncertainty does not help the NHS to function, and this has been echoed by the Royal College of Nursing who noted that “lack of certainty is undoubtedly a key reason that EU nurses are no longer choosing to work in the UK, which is already putting pressure on staff and services.”

Our relationship with Europe in respect to medicine, access to medicine and health and care work is crucial to continue to be able to deliver a first-class NHS. Uncertainty simply put jeopardises this.

Another poll in EU Membership?

Labour Party

Nigel Farage seems to have surprised his own side as much as those of us who are sensible enough to understand that EU membership is the best way to serve Britain’s interests – economic, social and cultural.

Many of us who wish to stay in the EU have also stated our preference for a further vote on membership. I wholeheartedly believe that the British people deserve another say. The 2016 referendum campaign fought by the leave side was full of lies – rather than receiving more money the NHS is in crisis. What is more, the franchise was limited to that used in general elections which meant that EU citizens settled in Britain had no say. The final consideration was the lack of any threshold. Referendums of the magnitude of this one should require at least a 60 per cent majority.

Yet the idea of another referendum is fraught with difficulties which need to be resolved before it goes much further. The main one is the substance of the referendum question. Nigel Farage wants it framed as accept the deal or reject the deal and leave the EU. This is obviously out of the question. The question need to be accept the deal or reject it and maintain the status quo which is membership of the European Union.

Now let’s look behind Farage’s unexpected demand. He and very many other on the ultra-right, both inside the House of Commons and elsewhere in the country, want to turn Britain into a small state, low tax, low wage corporate tax have. Brexit, freeing the UK from essential safeguards and protection guaranteed by our membership of the EU, gives them the means to do that.

Britain remains a civilised, tolerant and caring country. London is a world-class city. We can only continue to be the country we are by remaining alongside our European neighbours and being part of the largest trading bloc in the world. It’s called the European Union.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Labour Party

“The NHS cannot afford five more years of David Cameron”, the Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, said last week referring to revelations that the Tories had originally planned to CUT the number of nurses working in the NHS. He promised that Labour would fund 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs.

The Tories original plan for the NHS, Labour revealed, was to cut the number of full-time NHS nurses by 1,966 by 2019, more than 1,500 of them mental health posts.

Further analysis by the independent House of Commons library revealed the numbers were already dwindling. The latest NHS workforce census, which showed the number of nurses per million people in the UK had fallen from 5,324 in 2009 to 5,172 in 2014.

Meanwhile, recognising the very poor press zero hours contracts get, the Tories have decided to re-brand them. But whichever way you cut it-flexible hours, zero hours, or no hours, they are still bad, as Barbara Ellen writes: “Great news: everyone can stop worrying about nasty, unfair zero-hours contracts because Iain Duncan Smith has rebranded them and made them sound nice.

“The Conservative work and pensions secretary thinks that the phrase ‘zero-hours contracts’ is too negative, and wants to replace it with ‘flexible hours’. Did you see what he did there? It’s even better than Esther McVey’s ‘enabling hours’,” Ellen added.

What the Tories don’t understand is that ‘hard working families’, as they are so fond of calling the working population, need job security to enable them to provide a stable environment family environment- something else the Tories think it’s so important for us all to deliver on, only they refuse to give us the means with which to carry this out.

The Tories tell us that they support the family and ‘hard working people’, yet by embracing zero hour contracts they fail to understand that the precarious nature of these contracts is a way to simply re-dress ‘insecurity’ with ‘flexibility’- as Chuka Umunna, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, innovation and Skills, sagely described it.

You can read Barbara Ellen’s article in full here.

Women need safe and accessible contraception

Labour Party

Yesterday’s “Daily Telegraph” reported that the number of girls under 15 in England who have sought contraceptive implants has increased sixfold in just half a decade, according to government statistics. Nearly 5,000 teenagers below the age of consent were given the devices last year, compared with about 800 just five years ago.

The NHS Information Centre  showed that about 7,400 girls aged 15 or under had implants or injections last year, up from 2,900 in 2005/6. This included 2,500 who had injections last year, up from 2,100.

The increase follows a push by the government to encourage the use of such devices in order to cut teenage pregnancies.

Although parents have apparently complained that their daughters were being fitted with the implants without their knowledge, I for one am absolutely certain that having such a device is better than an unwanted pregnancy. Although it is true that the long-term effects of such implants are unclear, the girls may well not use the devices for very long. They will eventually start a family at an appropriate age or switch to an alternative method when older.

Access to contraception is vitally important and reproductive freedom lies at the heart of public health and equity across the world.

Here in the EU the European Commission has always and supported policy and co-ordination and exchange of good practice to combat health inequalities between member states.

However, access to contraception is not always easy or cheap in several EU countries, due in part to lack of state subsidy and poor information on availability. This has detrimental effects on the health and well-being of low-income women in particular. It also does nothing to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies in these countries.

Unfortunately the European Commission does not at present prioritise women’s reproductive health and access to contraception. The 88 health indicators developed by the Commission do not include availability of contraception or the unmet needs for such provision. What is more, the Commission’s Health for Growth Programme (2014 – 2020) contains no references to sexual and reproductive health.

To try and put this right, members of the European Parliament Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee are putting an oral question to the Commission – similar to Prime Minister’s Questions without the loudness and rudeness – on the issue.

 The Question will ask:

  •  What is the Commission doing to collect data on contraceptive use?
  • Is the Commission sharing best practice across Member States?
  • How is the Commission breaking down the barriers – high cost, lack of insurance cover, lack of helpful information – limiting access to contraception?
  • In what ways will the Commission follow up on the outcomes detailed in its report on health equality initiatives?

It is absolutely right that we push the European Commission on this important subject. Safe and reliable contraception has transformed women’s lives allowing pregnancies to be planned and the size of any given family size to be decided by the parents concerned. Those of us who live in countries where contraception is free and easily accessible have a real duty to do all we can to bring the same benefits to women who live in less fortunate circumstances.

Interestingly United States President Barack Obama recently announced modified plans to require that all women to have access to contraception. The president was uniquivocal when he said the policy “saves lives and saves money”. The White House even hanged the scheme to allow health insurers to provide cover directly if employers object in order to allow access to contraception where employers may not wish to support it on religious grounds.


Honeyball’s Weekly Round Up


If the budget did one thing, it showed the Coalition Government in its true colours.  Now we know it’s a Tory Government in which the Lib-Dems appear to have very little say, I have decided it would be useful to do a weekly digest of some of the more iniquitous Tory actions during the past seven days plus anything else which seems interesting. 

Amid Wimbledon and World Cup fever, not to mention cricket, Andrew Lansley, the new Health Secretary quietly announced that he would cut patients right to see a family doctor within 48 hours as we all as dropping the 18 week waiting time target for hospital treatment.

Lansley says he is freeing the NHS from bureaucracy and targets that have no clinical justification. This will, it is claimed, help speed up the £850mn cuts that NHS managers are expected to make by 2014.

Monitoring it is essential to ensure that patients get the highest level of care and the earliest available opportunity. With no alternative in place I am concerned that we will return to the days when people waited for months, sometimes years for treatment, an appalling state of affairs which the Labour Government put a stop to.

I also read about Iain Duncan Smith’s announcement he would relocate the long-term unemployed to areas where there is greater opportunity for work. This is a tall order and I cannot see how this will work in reality. Is this just more rhetoric?

The Observer’s poll was an interesting read – it suggested support for the Lib-Dems had slumped because they backed the VAT increase. Surely this can’t be the only reason its voters are uprooting?  Conservative Government obviously does not suit Lib-Dem activists and voters.

A Review of the Honeyball Buzz

Labour Party

Having started my own regular blog reviews, I recently came across one for this particular blog., who have a complete list of political blogs, are too kind – they have reviewed the Honeyball Buzz and summarise it as:

“One of our favourite MEPs’ blogs, the excellent Mary Honeyball provides us with an informed, witty commentary on life in Labour.”

Thank you very much! I appreciate the 8/10 rating.

As an aside, I am certain that the majority of people who read political blogs would prefer my views to those MEPs who think the NHS makes you iller, and deny the existence of man-made climate change.  They, and I’m sure some of you, know who they are. 

 If you would like to read the full insightful analysis from, please click here.


Labour Party
Lillian Ladele who discriminates against gay men and lesbians.

Lillian Ladele who discriminates against gay men and lesbians.

I wrote last year about the perverse decision favouring Lillian Ladele. This was the woman who thought she should be able to ignore the law of the land and refused to conduct Civil Partnership ceremonies. She probably wanted to pour green custard over them, but that’s another example of people unable to accept democratic decisions taking the law into their own hands. I see from this week’s Islington News that having had the original decision overturned (has anybody investigated the tribunal who came to this perverse decision?) that her latest appeal has failed. As Ms. Ladele is funded by the Christian Institute I expect this to go all the way up through the House of Lords and to the European Court of Human Rights wasting a lot of time and money that could be far more productively used. They have not recorded their defeats on their website.

I googled Lillian Ladele to research this piece and all the top hits are totally out of date.

BBC                Times                Sunday Times                Daily Mail                 Daily Telegraph etc, there are more

I cannot find one national news organisation with the facts. Worse click on any of these above and you will think that Lillian Ladele has won her case. Google is a neutral tool so the responsibility lies with the broadcasters anbd the newspapers. All these sites are out of date. None have been updated (and the appeal was overturned in December) and they still give a distorted view of what happened. Of course they like a controversial story and find common sense boring. I think it is unlikely that appealing to these organisations good nature will get them to report more responsibly. What will I suspect is when someone defames or worse assaults somebody because of what they have found on the net.

I am against internet regulation but as a public organisation the BBC is failing massively by not reporting the facts. It is following the 24/7 “feral beast” trend that menas that despite massive improvements in life expectancy the NHS is still lazily bashed. It is not perfect but where are the stories about people living longer happier lives. It is a fact because actuaries have confirmed this:

“Over the last few years, the issue of longevity risk has gained prominence as mortality rates, and therefore life expectancies, have been improving at an accelerating and faster than anticipated pace.” The Actuary 1.5.08

A Labour government, an improved economy and NHS and people live longer. Conclusive to me but who makes this causal link in the media? No it’s a MMR scare here and an isolated example of bad treatement there.  A true picture is that by voting Labour the country has accelerated its increase in longevity. Vote Labour to Live Longer, it’s a fact! What a slogan!

I have leapt a bit here but the point is the same. We live longer and have more money. We are more tolerant and Lilllian is an outdated bigot.

Yet our media fails to report this and runs down things far more readily than praising them. They need to get how the web works and their responsibilities to their readers and viewers.