European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:58 pm on 5th September 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 3:58 pm, 5th September 2019

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Bull outlined some of the problems very clearly. I want to build on the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Oates. On reciprocal healthcare, we must remember that 27 million people hold a UK-issued European health insurance card. If the 190,000 UK pensioners who live elsewhere in the EU were to return to the UK, the cost of their healthcare alone would be between £500 million and £1 billion per year. Yet nowhere have we seen provision for this kind of movement happening.

The BMA has just published a document—I declare my interest as a past president—entitled A Health Service on the Brink: The Dangers of a “No Deal” Brexit. It is littered with questions that should have been answered during the years since the referendum. We have nearly 22,000 European graduate doctors in the UK, a third of whom have said they are considering leaving. We need reciprocal arrangements for their qualifications. We have 10,000 medical vacancies already. If a third of those doctors go, we will have even more. When people turn up with their sick child or another family member, and have an even longer trolley wait than they have now, or when their relative dies because they cannot get the healthcare they need, the headlines will change dramatically. Sadly, I worry that some implications for individuals in our society have not hit home, in part because we have not told them, openly and honestly, what the implications are.

I have been privileged enough to be a member of the European Advisory Group to the Welsh Government. As the noble Lord, Lord Wigley—I would say “my noble friend”—knows only too well, the concern over farmers is enormous. The concern over fair distribution of food in the event of shortages, because of our rural areas, is huge. We have many SMEs that create component parts, which will almost certainly become non-viable in the event of no deal. Our ports have been trying hard to make provision for the future, but the sudden catastrophe of no deal will jeopardise our economy in Wales. As is known, Wales already has socio- economic problems that go back a long way through our history.

Finally, when considering the implications of no deal, remember all those groups that we will suddenly drop out of. The European Reference Networks look at rare diseases. They are the eyes and ears looking at where disastrous epidemics, pandemics and new diseases are emerging. Without that intelligence, strange conditions will just turn up in emergency departments around the country, with no information ahead of time. For those and many other reasons—the debate has been long and interesting—I strongly endorse the comments made by my noble friend Lady Bull and support this legislation.