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A no-deal Brexit has the potential to leave the millions of EU citizens living and working in the UK – including those working in the NHS – in limbo, says Healthcare Leader’s reporter Léa Legraien
Over the past two years, I’ve been asking myself the same questions everyday: ‘What will I have for lunch and will I be able to remain in the UK after Brexit?’
When I arrived here, my intentions were to stay for six months, strengthen my English and pursue a Master’s degree in journalism in my home country – France. It’s now been three and a half years since I started calling London ‘home’.
But the nearer we get to the Brexit deadline, the more I fear for my future here. Like me, there are no fewer than 3.8 million EU nationals – 6% of the UK population – who are being kept in the dark.
Within the NHS alone, out of the 1.2 million members of staff, 62,000 (5.6%) are nationals of other EU countries – a not insignificant number. These people are nurses, doctors, health visitors and ambulance staff, just to cite a few.
Just like any national NHS staff trained in the UK, EU NHS staff work hard to look after their patients and improve the population’s health.
Much like them, I’m sure, every time I go back home for holiday, everyone keeps asking me whether I’ll be able to remain in the UK after March 2019, to which I answer, ‘I don’t have a clue’.
While I’m still able to travel to the EU with my national ID, I recently chose to use my passport instead. Before, I was happy to leave the UK to spend some time elsewhere. Now I fear the UK customs officer won’t let me through without seeing a proof of residency.
The UK Government has started to talk about ‘settled status’. I despise this dehumanising term. Even though it’s only about filling in a few documents in the eye of the law, it’s my future that is at stake.
For me, this means not being able to make any long-term plans, both on a professional and personal level.
It means potentially losing the close friends I’ve met along the way.
It means saying goodbye to the places I cherish.
It means being in a constant state of fear that everything I’ve built here might shatter.
And I’m sure it feels exactly the same to EU NHS staff.
I love London and have no intention of leaving this amazing city. I work, pay my bills, recycle and do my best to treat this place and its people with the utmost respect. I’m sure that the majority, if not all, of the EU NHS staff working here feel much the same.
Whether it’s me, EU NHS staff or any other EU nationals living in the UK, we shouldn’t be ‘bargaining chips’ in the Brexit negotiations.
The Government recently said the discussions with the EU are ‘progressing well’ and it ‘continues to work hard to seek a positive deal’. But there is still a long way to go before the millions of EU citizens living and working in the UK can breathe a sigh of relief.