The message from clinicians and scientists is clear; Brexit is bad for our health. It will be harmful for people who rely on the NHS, research, social care and public health as well as for the workforce on which these depend. Having listened to the evidence presented to the Health and Social Care Committee in Parliament over the past couple of years, I cannot remain silent about the impact this will have on the communities I was elected to represent, especially in the event of a chaotic exit with no deal and no transition. Hard Brexit in particular would knowingly, and avoidably, inflict reckless damage to the close partnerships, built up over decades, in place at every stage from research and development to medicines and devices arriving on the community pharmacy or hospital shelf.
There is no version of Brexit which will benefit the NHS, social care, public health or our life sciences sector, only varying degrees of harm. This, together with the wider economic fallout from Brexit, will have the hardest impact on the most disadvantaged in society. We would not be insulated from the economic damage here in Devon.
Brexit reality is vastly different to the fantasy Brexit miss-sold to the public during the referendum campaign. The promise on the side of the bus of an extra £350m per week has crashed into the inconvenient truth that there is no Brexit bonanza for the NHS, only a Brexit penalty. A new report, Brexit and the Health and Social Care Workforce in the UK - by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) - also highlights the vital role of EEA nationals across social care as well as the NHS, and the scale of the threat to recruitment and retention as a result of Brexit.
It is likely that there will be provision for doctors and nurses coming to the UK after Brexit, albeit at extra cost and bureaucracy, if the government follows the guidance of the Migration Advisory Committee. But the effect on the social care workforce and those who rely on them for care will be particularly serious because of the salary threshold of £30,000. We already have a serious shortfall of healthcare assistants in social care in our area. We cannot afford to lose or further demoralise those who have given so much to our health and care services.
Brexit is major constitutional, economic and social surgery and we are all being wheeled into the operating theatre on the basis of a vague consent form signed over two years ago when no one knew which of the many versions of Brexit would be taken forward. It is time to insist that our politicians apply the principle of informed consent. The Withdrawal Agreement has been published alongside a draft Future Framework for our relationship with the EU after Brexit. Only now can we properly weigh up the risks and benefits of the proposed surgery rather than the fantasy Brexit touted in the referendum. Parliament is in gridlock and there is no majority for any of the options. It is wholly disingenuous for Mr Corbyn or the right wing of the Tory Party to pretend that they could negotiate a better deal with less than 130 days until we could end up crashing out with no deal and no transition. Neither will an irresponsible leadership challenge help in such a moment of national crisis.
The Government needs to recognise the stalemate and suspend Article 50 to allow the public their say on the only realistic deal that could be negotiated. That People's Vote should include the option to remain in the EU.
People may come to the same conclusion to leave the European Union. To proceed without informed consent, however, would not only be grossly unethical, it would also place the blame for the unintended consequences squarely at the feet of all those politicians from across both main Parties who allowed it to happen.
Alongside a group of current and former clinicians in Parliament, I plan to bring forward an 'informed consent' amendment to the 'meaningful vote' approval motion on the final deal that would make the deal conditional on a People's Vote. It is not acceptable for MPs to sit on the sidelines claiming that the people have already delivered their verdict. Without informed consent there is no valid consent.