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Liberal Democrats

F8: The Impact of Brexit on Public Services

Submitted by Federal Policy Committee

Mover: Baronness Ludford | Summator: TBA

This motion applies to   


The Liberal Democrats' position on the importance of Britain being part of the European Union is very well known. But Brexit will pose some particular and severe challenges to crucial public services such as education, health and others. These services currently rely on large numbers of teachers, nurses, doctors and paying students from other EU countries. Following the Brexit referendum last year, many of these people are now considering leaving the UK, and numbers coming to the UK have fallen precipitously in the last twelve months.

As well as these very serious workforce challenges, there will be many other financial challenges to maintaining good public services, starting with a 15% increase in the cost of all medical and other supplies from outside the UK, due to the fall in the value of the pound.

It is clear that these are major challenges to vital public services such as social care and health, which are already finding it difficult to maintain high quality services in current conditions.

The Conservative and Labour 'hard' approach to Brexit will maximise the difficulties of tackling these challenges, and miss opportunities to mitigate them. The motion sets out measures to tackle these severe problems for public services.

Full text of the motion:

Conference notes:

  1. The commitment in both the Conservative and Labour manifestos to a hard Brexit, including abandoning membership of the European Single Market and European Customs Union.
  2. The existing intense pressure on public services as a result of Conservative cuts to funding.
  3. That 5.5% of the total NHS medical workforce in England are non-UK EU nationals including 10% of all doctors, 7% of nurses, and more than 27,000 other staff, and that nearly 100,000 non-UK EU staff work in the social care system.
  4. That more than half of the 10,000 doctors from European Economic Area countries working in the NHS are considering leaving the UK because of the referendum result, and that applications from EU nurses to work in the NHS has fallen by 96% since the vote to leave the EU.
  5. That nearly 5,000 qualified EU teachers are awarded Qualified Teacher Status in the UK every year.
  6. That there are currently 127,000 EU students studying in UK universities, and 17% of academic staff in higher education are EU nationals.
  7. That one of the main sources of funding for UK universities and research centres is the EUÕs Horizon 2020 programme, accounting for over £1 billion in grants and contracts.
  8. That Local Government has a formal advisory role in the EU law and policy-making process through its membership of the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR), and that currently no alternative formal mechanism exists post-Brexit for a similar arrangement with the UK government.
  9. That according to the Local Government Association there will be a structural investment funding gap of £8.4 billion across the UK unless a replacement scheme is implemented.

Conference further notes with concern the deterioration in the UK's financial position following the Brexit referendum which is increasing prices and will threaten investment in public services in the future, including:

  1. A 15% decline in the exchange rate which increases the cost of overseas purchases such as specialist medical equipment, an increase in inflation to 2.7%, and forecast GDP being 2.4% lower by 2021 than it would have been without Brexit.
  2. The increase in government borrowing of £15bn a year because of Brexit, exposing public services to the full effects of any future financial shocks.
  3. The Treasury's long-term analysis which estimated the annual cost to the public finances of a soft Brexit at £20bn, a hard Brexit at £36bn, and "no deal" at £45bn.

Conference believes:

  1. That the free movement of people, expertise, and information is central to the effective functioning of public services.
  2. The vote to leave in 2016 was not a vote for further damage to essential public services.
  3. That the Conservative move towards hard Brexit, supported and enabled by Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, will do irreparable damage to the UK's public sector and risk eroding the employment rights of those working in the public and private sectors, not least those of women, young workers and currently protected minority groups.
  4. That the Conservatives' Immigration Skills Charge - expected to be doubled in the near future - is an unnecessary burden on hard-pressed public services and will endanger the ability of public bodies to hire much-needed workers.
  5. That immigration and immigrants make a significant net contribution to society, and the rhetoric surrounding Brexit and the rights of EU citizens continues to damage the UK's image as an open and tolerant society.

Conference calls for:

  1. The Government to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK, ending their ongoing uncertainty.
  2. Continuing UK Membership of the Single Market and European Customs Union, including the four freedoms of movement of goods, capital, services, and labour to be a priority during Brexit negotiations, in order to minimise the damage to British public services.
  3. Continuing access for British institutions to European programmes for academia and research, including Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+.
  4. The Government to publish an urgent assessment of staffing shortfalls in public services, including those in devolved administrations, as a result of its position in Brexit negotiations.
  5. The Government to publish the research into the impact of Brexit it has carried out across 50 sectors of the economy.
  6. Replacement of the formal advisory role for local government currently established in the EU Committee of the Regions to help continue local government’s role in law-making in the UK and leaving no deficiency in local government powers.
  7. Decisions over future structural investment funding to be taken at as local a level as possible, rather than always made in Whitehall.

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