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Royal College of Nursing calls for second Brexit referendum

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has written to nine political party leaders asking them to support a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

The letter, sent on 29 August 2018 to the leaders of the major political parties across the UK on behalf of the RCN’s 435,000 members, states that Brexit poses an “immediate risk to the provision of safe and effective care”.

The RCN added that the delivery of effective person-centred care depends on continued UK membership of the European Medicines Agency and on UK participation in clinical trials and research projects.

The letter also expressed concerns that Brexit will exacerbate existing problems with workforce sustainability.

”As the debate across our membership has made clear, the implications of Brexit for the health and care system will be numerous,” Maria Trewern, chair of the RCN council, said. “There are risks that, if not credibly addressed, may damage population health, as well as severely impact on our members’ ability to provide safe and effective care for their patients in both the short and the long term.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205378

Readers' comments (1)

  • I'm not sure that the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty could be reversed following a second Referendum vote (assuming that a suitable majority vote could be obtained). There certainly have been assertions in the news media that Article 50 is somehow reversible, including such an assertion seemingly made by the Government official responsible for the original wording of Article 50.

    But it is not clear to me from reading the wording of Article 50 (see that our notification of our intention to withdraw from the EU is reversible:

    1) The Member State (i.e. the UK + Northern Ireland) simply has to notify the European Council of its intention to leave the EU [= paragraph 2 of Article 50].

    2) Once this notification has been made (i.e. Article 50 has been "triggered"), the EU then has to " ... negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal ..." [= paragraph 2 of Article 50].

    3) There is no 2-year deadline for a negotiated withdrawal that culminates in a mutually acceptable withdrawl agreement. It can take as long as it needs to take subject to the unanimous agreement between the European Council and the Member State: "The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period." [= paragraph 3 of Article 50].

    4) Clearly, only if there is a failure on the part of the Member State to engage in negotiations, or perhaps a failure to reach an acceptable withdrawal agreement, does the 2-year deadline apply. This represents the "HARD BREXIT" scenario.

    5) Also, paragraph 3 of Article 50 sets out TWO (and only TWO) kinds of BREXIT, one being the HARD BREXIT and the other being a negotiated withdrawal, in other words, a SOFT BREXIT. NO provision is made in Article 50 for a withdrawal of our notice to withdraw.

    6) However, whilst paragraph 5 of Article 50 does provide for a route back in to the EU, this being the same route that any other European State has to follow to become a Member State, there is no reason to suppose that the EU will allow the UK + Northern Ireland to re-join the club on exactly the same terms as we "enjoyed" when we triggered Article 50!

    So, what purpose could or would a Referendum serve? In my (non-expert) view, there would have to be, and there can only be, THREE choices:

    1) HARD BREXIT. We just pull out of the EU club and stop paying our subs.
    2) SOFT BREXIT. We accept the terms of a negotiated withdrawal agreement, which will probably require us to keep on paying something into the EU coffers to facilitate a soft landing.
    3) We re-apply for membership of the EU club on terms DICTATED by the EU - see Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty: "The conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the Union is founded, which such admission entails, shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State."

    If the RCN has concerns, its best bet is to make these concerns known directly to our Brexit negotiators. A Referendum will not, I think, serve any useful purpose.

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