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.
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.