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Independents' Day

Best be blunt about Brexit

Dr Pete Deveson

When is it better to be blunt? Imagine a scenario in which an otherwise sensible patient suddenly comes out with something nonsensical: ‘My homeopath said my elbow hurts because I eat too many raspberries’ or whatever. 

Now we know this is hogwash, but is it always a good idea to point that out? (‘We’ in this case meaning the blogger and his readership; the patient clearly doesn’t know, otherwise he wouldn’t be visiting a homeopath, and the homeopath doesn’t know, otherwise that would make her some kind of predatory charlatan, and in this hypothetical instance I’ve decided she’s just a wilfully misinformed nincompoop. What can I say? My vignette, my rules. Sandbox your own damn characters.)

Sometimes pragmatism wins the day. Perhaps you don’t want to jeopardise the doctor-patient relationship, or you’re running late, or maybe you don’t have a scooby how to fix his hurty elbow and you’re happy to run with the whole raspberry theory if it means he won’t ask any more questions. So, you just deploy your best De Niro shrug and let it slide.

But what if it’s, ‘my homeopath told me to cancel my curative cancer surgery and start her patented Drupelet-Free Detox Diet instead’? Suddenly the stakes are too high to remain polite. Step aside Bobby, it’s time to go full Dawkins

Sometimes you have to look at the big picture and tell the truth, no matter how problematic that may be. Which is why I was saddened last week to see Simon Stevens demanding the chancellor honours the £350m-a-week Brexit Bus Bonus promised to the NHS by Vote Leave last year.

Mr Stevens is not an idiot; he knows there won’t actually be any cash for him from Brexit – he might as well pretend he’s gonna secure NHS funding from the helpful Nigerian diplomats living in my spam folder.

And even Jeremy Hunt, on whose idiocy or otherwise I make no comment, knows enough to carefully precondition his response: ‘If there is a Brexit dividend…the NHS should be the first port of call.’

It’s all about politics, of course; Mr Stevens is caught in a desperate race with the government to decide who’ll take the blame for the inevitable winter crisis, and he’s trying to position himself so Mr Hunt ends up eating the biscuit.

But I’d respect him a lot more if he admitted what they’ve both skirted around (and I appreciate this opinion may alienate 52% of my readers, but we’re not talking about elbows here): Brexit is going to stuff the economy and with it the NHS, and by far the most sensible thing to do is to stop the whole sorry process before it’s too late.

Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson


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Readers' comments (18)

  • Azeem Majeed

    Good points Pete.

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  • I think Brexit is more likely to stuff the NHS through recruitment issues, and 'fear' of what will happen for our EU colleagues, than it is likely to stuff the economy...... its not in anyones interest to have large tariffs, if you study economics you'll see that government policies and crises often have little impact on long term prosperity (I'm going to specifically exempt Zimbabwe on this one), they tend to cause nothing more than short term blips (Look at the ftse 250 on the days following brexit, look at the indices now). Business men and money talks...politicians listen ....because they are greedy little so and so's with the nose in the trough..... Merkel will be under pressure from the German car industry to keep the sales going. There will be a lot of bluster on the surface, and the european leaders will wish to portray how tough they've been with the UK, to discourage their citizens from voting for independence (Catalonia another good example) but little will change underneath. Politicians come and go..... businesses remain and can influence that come and go......Think of the millennium bug.......I do agree though with your observations about Simon Stevens.

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  • What precisely does "stuff the economy mean?" Every economic decision has winners and losers. If you don't know this you are ignorant or being wilfully stupid. You do realise that Norway and Switzerland have never touched the EU with a barge pole and have pretty un-stuffed economies.

    I think this article is (unbelievably) still just sour grapes about the referendum

    By the way can anyone aged over 50 like me cite a single year in the last 32 ie since I was an adult when there wasn't a queue of people like the author willing to shout that the NHS is "stuffed"

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  • Norway has a $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund..... and a population of 4 million...... think Im going to learn 'Troll' and relocate :-)

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  • Apologies 5million.... so thats only $200,000 per man woman and child,......

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  • Vinci Ho

    (1) Brexit is Brexit . I stick to this even though I voted Remain (after tossing a coin with my practice nurse as a witness). The referendum was an exercise of direct democracy , although there is an argument that the timing of the referendum was not right and things had changed dramatically since then. A second referendum is not currently favoured even by those voted Remain , according to various polls(yes , you have the right not to believe them)
    (2) But the ‘process’ of reaching the endpoint of Brexit is undoubtedly a distraction to every other issues vital to this country. To me , the story was just written in such a way that Brexit was the beast in the minds of the prime minister and her close aides(gone now) for grabbing more power in an ‘unnecessary’ general election. She was punished simply because of being out of touch with real people. You can argue Jeremy Corbyn managed to swing the ship called Populism in the right direction to gain more seats in House of Commons.
    (3) Domestic issues including health and social care were always there before the referendum. They have been simply ignored since the PM took the helm of this government because she spent all the time in Brexit , being obsessed with a ‘deal’ or ‘no deal’ with EU. The incompetence of those hard core Brexiteer cabinet colleagues(the ones she fearing )had not helped . Ultimately, domestic issues are proven to be more important than Brexit , at least , through indirect democracy in the general election.Even the divine power (or if you believe in God) sent her strong , painful messages through Grenfell Tower , cyber-attack on NHS and a series of terror attacks.
    (4) As far as the EU negotiation goes , one thing has become more apparent that this ‘divorce’ is not really bilateral; UK wants to break away but EU wants us to stay . And if it is a fine line between negotiation and extortion, it is ultimately about the word Power. This UK government is essentially powerless right now with a prime minister whom everyone is guessing how long will she survive for her leadership. I think this is something those strongly believing in Brexit must remind themselves all the time. Problem is there is nobody with a vision and audacity qualified this premiership with a historically unattractive job description. The prime minister also has nobody to turn to right now and the bankruptcy of trust and belief from people continues.
    (5) Whether Brexit will make UK great again(sounds like Mr Trump) in the future remains an academic argument to me. The financial system in the City(London) , being 10 times the size of our own GDP, is at least ready to take off one way or the other , growing eventually to 20 times bigger in 25 years , if things go ‘well’. BUT uncertainty is a slow poison. Perhaps, Mark Carney deserves some credit in sustaining the ship with all the measures from Bank of England since the result of the referendum while he had been under constant assaults from those hard core Brexiteer politicians. I think getting rid of his ‘baggages’ and setting an early ‘personal Brexit’ date in 2019 certainly had helped him to break his shackles.
    Unfortunately for our own GDP or economy, there is only so much Bank of England can do. The government needs the courage and vision to invest in new infrastructures(airports ,rail and housing etc )and new technologies to drive up economic growth . There is also an issue of low productivity in whole UK and hence , it is not just about the prosperity of the City . To achieve any progress on these , one needs a, once again , strong but honest government.
    (6)Talking about honesty , I do think Simon Stevens finally showed his spine in anti-spinning the argument of £350 million per week for NHS to put pressure back on the government. Use the lie to find the truth and it clearly states that we need the money for health and social care right now. If it is to raise tax or national insurance, so be it .Desperate times need desperate measures , simply put.
    (7)So where does this really lead us to? I still think it depends on May’s Choice. She has a Chancellor (arguably in a love and hate relationship with her) to announce the Budget soon and a deadline of ‘making up your bloody mind by December’ ultimatum from EU. Time is running out fast and furious .
    I honestly think we should move on with this Brexit or no Brexit dispute and stop the war between the two tribes. This reality needs to be shared by all of us and focus on the process . Sending abuses or even death threats to each other is only polarising the country even more......
    What is ‘important’ but what is more ‘important’ ? We are witnesses of history .

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  • You do realise that Norway and Switzerland have never touched the EU with a barge pole and have pretty un-stuffed economies.....

    Yeah sure, because two extremely wealthy countries with tiny populations (compared to the UK) are a fantastic template for planning the future of the UK on!!!!

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  • Keep your population as close to "tiny" as possible....sounds like a fantastic template for planning a prosperous economy

    Only wish that the mutton-head lefty "internstionslists" of the Blsir/Brown years had realised this.

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  • Healthy Cynic

    It seems Dr Deveson has the inside track on Brexit. I thought no-none had any idea what will actually happen. Seems I must be ignorant.

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  • "You do realise that Norway and Switzerland have never touched the EU with a barge pole and have pretty un-stuffed economies..... "

    Norway and Switzerland approach things differently, but both are in EFTA and both accept freedom of movement. They make compromises to stay in the single market, something the UK seems unwilling to do.

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