As General Secretary of Britain’s largest health union, I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of our National Health Service. There’s rarely a major political decision that doesn’t have an impact on our amazing NHS in one way or another.
That’s certainly the case with the upcoming EU referendum. Our union firmly believes that the economic fallout from Brexit would mean a health service facing even more cuts.
Yet the Vote Leave campaign argues that there would be more money for the NHS. That’s a dangerous lie.
Because if the UK votes for Brexit on 23 June in the hope of a better NHS, what the country will really be voting for is a weaker, poorer, more overstretched service. One where patients can't help but notice the difference.
The facts are getting clearer every day. The overwhelming balance of opinion among economists and policy makers is that our economy will be weaker, and a weaker economy will simply herald a renewed squeeze on government spending.
With our public services already at breaking point, we can’t afford to take that risk.
That’s one reason why – despite our misgivings about the EU – UNISON is encouraging its members to vote remain. They have told us they feel we're better off inside Europe fighting for change than we are sitting on the sidelines talking to ourselves.
And fight is an apt word for the UK's health workers. Every employment right they have at work, pound in their pocket and service they provide has been fought for as public servants have faced the brunt of the government’s austerity agenda.
Meanwhile, the likes of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have been rampant cheerleaders for eye-watering cuts, yet now they masquerade as the friends of public servants and public service users. Even former Conservative PM John Major attacked them at the weekend, saying their “promises of expenditure on the National Health Service or elsewhere are frankly fatuous”.
I never thought I’d say this – but I agree with John Major.
The Brexiters' ugly opportunism insults the intelligence of the British people as they pretend to care about working people’s interests while cheerleading for hundreds of thousands of public sector job losses.
What matters to many of those campaigning for Brexit is their own personal advancement – as if the whole contest were a proxy for the Conservative Party leadership battle to come.
But what matters to UNISON is public sector jobs, families' livelihoods and the services these dedicated individuals provide for our communities. And while there may be arguments for Britain leaving the EU, as far as we’re concerned a remain vote is by far and above the better choice for anyone who cares about the future of our NHS.
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