Bath for Europe’s monthly rally on Sunday 4th November focused on the most recent Brexit developments and the damage Brexit would do to the NHS. The weather was grey and drizzly, matching the mood of the country as Brexit rumbles on leaving questions but providing few answers. Bath MP Wera Hobhouse addressed members of campaign group Bath for Europe and local passers-by outside the Theatre Royal, giving the crowd an update on the latest Brexit news.
“It’s chaos,” she said, “The Government doesn’t know its own mind.” She described the likely deal the Prime Minister would put before Parliament as BRINO – Brexit in name only. “We’ll leave the institutions of the EU, just follow the rules but have no seat at the table.” In a rare admission, she said, “I agree with Jacob Rees Mogg. We would be a vassal state. Is that really what people voted for in 2016?” She also discussed the concern MPs have about leaving the EU without a deal, pointing out the No Deal scenario would have political consequences, possibly a general election.
To enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, many of whom sported the iconic bEUrets which have become a symbol of the Remain campaign, Wera said that, as people have woken up to the fact that leaving the EU isn’t as easy as promised, “It remains democratic and legitimate to go back and ask the people again – Is that what you wanted?” She encouraged people to keep marching and make their voices heard by writing to their MPs and Theresa May to demand a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.
The NHS was the theme of November’s Pulse of Europe and, in addition to a short skit depicting the NHS as a sick patient, the crowd listened to a talk about the impact of Brexit on the health service. Alison Born, who worked for the NHS for many years spoke mainly about the problems of staffing and funding. She pointed out there are more than 40,000 registered vacancies in England as there has been an exodus of EU and foreign staff who don’t feel welcome here. There has also been a 90% drop in EU staff registering to work in the UK. As a result, there have been closures of A & E units, GP practices and, locally, a birthing unit in Western-Super-Mare. Most worryingly, a London cancer centre has had to stop providing chemo due to staff shortages.
“Lives will be put at risk by Brexit and it will only get worse,” Alison said. The Leave campaign promised £350 million per week to the austerity-starved NHS, but the reality is that Brexit will drain resources and reduce funding. Trades unions and professional health bodies such as the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives are sufficiently concerned to support a People’s Vote. “Now we know more about what Brexit means, we must be allowed an informed vote on the deal,” she concluded.