Brexit white paper vague on immigration restrictions EU nurses may face, says RCN

Paper says future plan ‘would end free movement, taking back control of the UK’s borders’

Welcome reassurances are contained within the newly published Brexit white paper, the RCN has said, but added that details are needed on immigration arrangements.

Prime minister Theresa May released the document yesterday, which outlines the government’s desired relationship between the UK and the European Union after Brexit.

Part of the proposal is mutual recognition of professional qualifications, including in healthcare, which would allow EU nurses to continue to register in the UK without requiring retraining.

RCN associate director of policy and public affairs Lara Carmona said: ‘This white paper provides much-needed reassurance on the government’s plans for healthcare professionals and patients.

‘Nurses from the EU not only care for their patients, they are active members of their local communities.

‘Preventing any fall in education standards, and recognising healthcare professionals’ qualifications, will allow EU nurses to continue to register to practice here.’

Immigration plans

But Ms Carmona was critical about the white paper’s lack of clarity on future immigration arrangements.

She said: ‘Despite falling nursing degree applications in England, and EU nurses leaving in droves since the Brexit vote, there is still no clarity on the immigration restrictions EU nurses will be subject to if they wish to come to the UK post-Brexit.’

The white paper said the future agreement ‘would end free movement, taking back control of the UK’s borders’, but full details are to be published in a delayed, second white paper that deals specifically with post-Brexit immigration.

Maintaining relationships

The document released yesterday seeks to maintain the UK’s current relationship with many EU agencies – something the RCN has welcomed.

Ms Carmona said: ‘Infectious diseases do not recognise borders. Continuing to cooperate with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will help ensure the UK can respond quickly to cross-border health threats.

‘And working with the European Medicines Agency, as well as guaranteeing the UK’s participation in future EU research programmes, will ensure the UK remains at the forefront of health innovation.

‘But we’re not over the finishing line. In the remaining negotiations, the government must put patient safety at the heart of its thinking.’

UK-EU negotiations are expected to end on 19 October, although an emergency summit may be called in November to finalise any deal, according to former Brexit secretary David Davis.

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