At the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress, members voted in favour of a referendum on the final Brexit deal.
The final tally saw 364 votes in favour, 163 against, and 57 abstentions.
‘It was a healthy debate, with a clear result, and great to see our members so interested in the topic. It is very significant and interesting that this is how nurses are feeling. You could hear in the debate that they are already seeing the consequences of Brexit,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN.
‘Today was not a vote on leaving or remaining - it was a vote about the deal and the right to vote on it. But to take this position formally, the RCN would need to do more consultation with the wider membership.’
During the EU referendum in 2016, the RCN took a neutral position. However, while Brexit negotiations have been underway, between April 2017 and March 2018, the profession has seen 3,962 nurses and midwives from EU27 countries leave the UK and only 805 join – an 87% decrease from the year before according to figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
‘We can’t manage without our European nurses but they are already leaving. Even though we’re desperately trying to recruit, people aren’t coming from Europe in the number they used to,’ continued Ms Davies.
The RCN has pledged to do more to represent its broad membership, with various political outlooks and points of view.
‘Brexit has made many European nationals feel decidedly unwelcome. And with NHS staffing pressures showing no sign of easing, no-one could blame nurses and midwives for thinking they’ll be better off elsewhere,’ said Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, a trade union.
‘This European exodus continues apace, simply because the Prime Minister has yet to do enough to reassure EU nurses and midwives that they’ll have rights, jobs and a future once Brexit becomes a reality.’