Members of SEA Cymru, attended, by invitation, a meeting of the Socialist Health Association on October 17th. The Speaker was Jeremy Miles A.M. the Counsel General for Wales and Welsh Government Brexit Minister. He spoke on Brexit and its impact on Welsh Public Services.
Here are some of the points he made:
- The Welsh Government has had to spend money on warehousing in case Johnson presents us with a no-deal Brexit. The cost of this would allow the Welsh NHS to buy 7 new MRI scanners!
- A no deal Brexit, as presently envisaged, means that we lose ‘mutual recognition of qualifications’. This means that we will not know in future whether doctors and other health professionals are adequately qualified for possible jobs – making recruitment extremely difficult. The Welsh Government is determined to insist that mutual recognition is kept.
- The price of food will rise under Brexit – impacting on families and also on the finances of hospitals, hospices, schools and care homes.
- We need better advice for European Union nationals applying for ‘settled status’. Bad practice here (the ‘hostile environment policy’) harms NHS recruitment – for example 18% of nurses in care homes are EU nationals. 96% of the vets in Welsh abattoirs are EU citizens.
- Data on EU servers (or the Cloud served by them) will be lost on the day of leaving. This will affect care workers’ access to data. The United States wants access to the data however – in order to gain procurement for its private health carers.
The Welsh Government is not party to decision making. But it has to prepare for the worst. We have not had assurance that Wales will be consulted even on issues that have been devolved. We have had to make it clear that we cannot implement agreements, on which we have not been consulted. We certainly cannot implement them with enthusiasm or dispatch.
We must be clear: Brexit is both a consequence and will be a cause of austerity. Years of austerity, cutting of wages, devastation of public services and deprivation of the vulnerable – led to the Leave vote. People felt that things could get no worse, and any change would be for the better. Austerity encouraged mistaken solutions, such as blaming migrants for bad housing, for swamping the Health Service and for profiting from Local Government services. In turn and in reality, Brexit will create its own swathe of austerity and further poverty for all but a handful of equity traders who stand to profit from selling Britain short. Brexit is a right-wing political choice, nothing to do with European intransigence or refighting the World Wars.
Questions from the floor rounded out the impact of Brexit on Public Services in Wales (and the rest of the UK):
- In the past, Local Authorities paid for flu jabs for key staff in schools and hospitals. This cost money in the short term but saved a lot more in supply and agency costs in the long term. Austerity has already cut down the power of Local Authorities to do this, even in Wales. There is currently not enough nasal spray flu vaccine even for children with vulnerable health. Will it be even worse in post Brexit austerity?
- What is the likely chance of ending charity status for private schools and hospitals?
- What is the chance of trade deals, cutting the ground from under the National Health Service?
- Data is a resource for us, in public services. Will it be a resource for US insurance companies after Brexit?
- Many of the issues that face Wales also face other parts of the United Kingdom. What at the prospects of cooperation with the Scottish Government in particular?
- What the chances of Wales and Scotland continuing to work with EU Medical, Scientific and Educational Agencies, in spite of Brexit?
Jeremy was able to answer some of the questions. Others are still in the lap of the gods. There is good cooperation between Wales and Scotland, in spite of the political differences between the governments. Both Governments have made it clear: even if Johnson boycotts EU meetings, Wales and Scotland will continue to participate.
But, overall, there is only one answer. We need to restore a sense of public provision and the services that come with it. Public Services like the Health Service (or the National Education Service) are matters of social justice that we need to fight for.
Mike Newman, SEA Cymru