Final Say: 430,000-strong nurse union writes to UK parties to back second referendum

Royal College of Nursing vows to step up pressure for a vote on the terms of leaving the EU after backing The Independent's campaign

There are 40,000 nurse vacancies in the UK currently and it's feared that Brexit could exacerbate the issue
There are 40,000 nurse vacancies in the UK currently and it's feared that Brexit could exacerbate the issue

The union representing nearly half a million UK nurses has written to Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and major party leaders asking them to agree to a Final Say on the terms of leaving the EU.

Failure to secure a deal poses an immediate threat to the public’s health and will “severely impact” nurses’ and midwives’ ability to provide safe care, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said on Wednesday.

More than 715,000 people have already backed The Independent’s Final Say campaign calling on Theresa May to accept a second vote to ensure key issues are solved before leaving, and avoid crashing out without a deal.

The endorsement by the RCN today comes after its members voted in favour of a second referendum in May and the campaign has been backed by the doctors of the British Medical Association, and leading politicians of all stripes.

With more than 100,000 staff vacancies across the NHS, 40,000 of them nurses, the RCN has been vocal about the harms of a “botched Brexit” and the risk of making it more difficult to attract nurses.

It says a second referendum will ensure the public has the chance to make an informed decision on the terms of the UK’s exit, two and a half years after it voted to leave.

In the letter RCN chair of council Maria Trewern warns that as well as staff numbers Brexit has particular problems for the health service in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if it leads to a hard border being reintroduced.

Ms Trewern said: “As the debate across our membership has made clear, the implications of Brexit for the health and care system will be numerous.

“There are risks that, if not credibly addressed, may damage population health, as well as severely impact on our members’ ability to provide safe and effective care for their patients in both the short and the long term.

“We have written to all political parties in these terms, as well as publicly shared the content of this letter.”

The letter was also sent to Vince Cable, Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley; Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader; Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood, the DUP’s Arlene Foster, and Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neil.

Ms Trewern added the union will step up its campaigning for a second referendum in the coming months.

However Theresa May has ruled out a second referendum, and a spokesperson for No 10 said today: “The British public have voted to leave the European Union.

“There is not going to be a second referendum under any circumstances.”

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