Brexit may stop much-needed talent moving between UK and EU

by Joel Baccas | 24.08.2018

Thanks to EU laws, many professional qualifications are recognised right across the 28-nation bloc. That’s really useful both for organisations like the NHS, which want peace of mind when employing talent from abroad, and for professionals looking to ply their trade across borders.

However, as with so many other handy bits of EU legislation, this recognition of qualifications is put at risk by Brexit.

The EU’s directive on the recognition of professional qualifications gives automatic recognition to qualifications for nurses, midwives, doctors (both GPs and specialists), dentists, pharmacists, architects and vets.

It also sets EU-wide standards, for example a nurse responsible for general care must have a minimum of three years full-time study under their belt and have covered specific subjects listed in the directive. There is further legislation for other professions, such as lawyers.

This opens a vast – and reliable – pool of talent for the NHS. EU healthcare professionals have helped plug the gaps during the NHS’s ongoing staffing crisis. The Brexit vote has already seen a dramatic decline in EU nationals applying to the NHS, as well as a rise in leavers. Qualifications not being automatically recognised will only make a job here less appealing.

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Going the other way, Brits benefit from their own qualifications being recognised in the other 27 EU countries. The directive helpfully lays out rules on temporary work in another EU country, setting up practice permanently on the continent, and a general system of recognition for other professions including teachers, translators and estate agents.

The EU Commission has been clear that after the UK leaves – absent some new arrangement in the Brexit negotiations – UK nationals will become third country nationals and the directive will no longer apply. UK-trained professionals looking to work in the EU will see their qualifications become subject to the separate rules and policies of each, individual member state rather than the blanket EU legislation which covers them now.

This clearly and immediately restricts the opportunities that professionals in the healthcare and other industries have, both with regards to employment and the sharing of valuable experience.

Brexiters promised us less red tape, not more. Many people voted for Brexit because they thought it would help the NHS, not hinder its recruitment of EU nurses and doctors. It’s another example of the negative consequences of Brexit which have come to light since the vote in 2016. The people deserve a say on the reality of Brexit now we can see just what that looks like.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

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