The British referendum on 23 June 2016 revealed inter-generational, geographical and socieoeconomic gaps in UK society. The 19th European Health Forum Gastein contributed to the debate of what is going to happen after the Brexit comes into effect.
It is noteworthy that this session had a good representation of the Young Forum Gastein network, promoting an intergenerational approach of the discussion.
The first panel highlighted the importance of economic and cultural factors within the poll.
As Lauren Ellis (Public health practitioner in Wales and Young Gasteiner) said: “people felt they had something to protect, it was a very personal decision and everyone had their own reasons”.
On the other hand, the result of the Brexit vote seems to have had the opposite effect in other European countries, cutting down Eurosceptism, as some people now are scared of the implications.
The second panel focused on the key challenges for health and social care in a scenario of the UK being outside the European Union. Speakers underlined that the Brexit process will be extremely complex and despite the stipulated time it will take years to align legislation. When it comes to public health, the speakers agreed that this is one of the success stories where the EU has delivered protection to its citizens. Brexit will have many public health impacts: e.g. on food safety, antimicrobial resistance policies and other cross-border challenges, not only related to the EU setting.
Furthermore, health research is another topic of high concern. The Brexit vote makes the UK a less attractive place for research, as it leads to uncertainty with what is going to happen with EU research funds and EU researcher’s contracts and work situation. This is also the concern of healthcare practitioners, who now have uncertainty about how their medical qualifications will be recognized in the UK.
Martin McKee (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) pointed out another figure: 2.3 million of British people are currently living in the EU. Could it be that the rights of these people as EU citizens will drop off? There are no answers at present.
The third panel moved the topic to consider the effect of Brexit on the EU. Shada Islam (Friends for Europe) talked about the need to bring “passion and emotion” into the EU debate.
Is it necessary to build a narrative for EU citizens to appreciate what the EU does? Some think that people need to be more convinced of the EU club benefit, others argue that citizens needs things going well, not propaganda; they do not have to know more about EU politics if they don’t want to, as they do with national politics.
It will take a long term (more than 5 years) to understand the consequences of Brexit. And now is the EU’s turn; it must steadfastly face up a number of changes and transformations to display real decisiveness in areas such as migration policies.
We live in a VUCA world (volatile unclear complex ambiguous), so there is a need for EU leaders with a certain skillset. Also, it is important to involve new actors in EU operability, where there is a need for a role of national parliaments.
In the end, Brexit is currently neither fatal nor final, but is a product that cannot be returned (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXVVCT4Jcs8&app=desktop). However, there remains a role to contribute as our public health policies require strong collaborations.
This Blog was written by the Young Gasteiner Josep M Guiu