Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Ireland's Brexit troubles

  • 02 November 2018


As an Australian living in Ireland, I've been watching the whole Brexit brouhaha with mildly alarmed curiosity. My ancestors were, predictably for an Anglo-Aussie, a hodgepodge mix of English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh, so I have no particular fondness nor animus towards the Brits, although my mum tells me my Irish-ancestry grandmother refused to stand for 'God Save the Queen' back when it was our national anthem.  

My Irish husband has always thought I'm a 'right eejit' for not minding having Her Royal Majesty as the Australian head of state. (Don't @ me — I'm not passionately opposed to a Republic, it's more a case of if it ain't broke, don't spend pots of money to change the letterhead.)

Still, when the 2016 United Kingdom referendum to leave the European Union passed, I did think those 52 per cent of voters were acting on a sense of Rule, Britannia nostalgia rather than a sober assessment of their current European interdependent reality.

More-to-the-point, I suspected many such voters were motivated more by inflammatory newspaper headlines about invading immigrants and strangling European regulations, than by a proper understanding of Brexit's implications. But then, nobody knew what Brexit would really mean, not even the policy wonks. Politicians said anything and everything before the vote, most of which turned out to be false promises and hyperbole.

Take the infamous NHS buses — the ones carrying Vote Leave advertisements plastered all over them implying the £350 million a week being paid to the EU could be more properly given to the NHS.

Apparently a vote winner for the Leave campaign, yet once Brexit became a reality, funding promises were rejigged and will require a substantial increase in taxes and government borrowing to be fulfilled; the European Medicines Agency (EMA) naturally announced it was moving; a British Medical Association survey found that nearly half of Euro-docs working in the UK were considering leaving; there was a staggering drop in the number of European nurses applying to work in the UK; and now the threat of a no-deal crash-out could mean patients needing to stockpile their drugs while the politicians and the pharmaceutical companies work out supply and tariff regulations.

Furthermore, British patients will lose access to the European Directive route for healthcare, in which patients on long waiting lists can pay for immediate treatment elsewhere in Europe and be reimbursed by the NHS. It is the ordinary people — the pensioners on