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Why EU pharmacists are scared for their future in a post-Brexit UK

By Léa Legraien

29 Aug 2018

A no-deal Brexit has the potential to leave the millions of EU citizens living and working in the UK – including those working in pharmacy – in limbo, says The Pharmacist’s reporter Léa Legraien

Over the past two years, I’ve been asking myself the same questions every day: ‘What will I have for lunch and will I be able to remain in the UK after Brexit?’

When I arrived here, my intentions were to stay for six months, strengthen my English and pursue a Master’s degree in journalism in my home country – France. It’s now been three and a half years since I started calling London ‘home’.

But the nearer we get to the Brexit deadline, the more I fear for my future here. There are no fewer than 3.8 million EU nationals – 6% of the UK population – who are being kept in the dark.

In Great Britain alone, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) counts 56,122 pharmacists registered to practice, of which 3,333 (5%) are from the European Economic Area (EEA) – a not insignificant number.

Just like any pharmacists trained in the UK, EU pharmacists work hard to look after their community whose needs they’ve become familiar with.

Much like them, I’m sure, every time I go back home for holiday, everyone keeps asking me whether I’ll be able to remain in the UK after March 2019, to which I answer, ‘I don’t have a clue’.

While I’m still able to travel to the EU with my national ID, I recently chose to use my passport instead. Before, I was happy to leave the UK to spend some time elsewhere. Now I fear the UK customs officer won’t let me through without seeing a proof of residency.

The UK Government has started to talk about ‘settled status’. I despise this dehumanising term. Even though it’s only about filling in a few documents in the eyes of the law, it’s my future that is at stake.

For me, this means not being able to make any long-term plans, both on a professional and personal level.

It means potentially losing the close friends I’ve met along the way.

It means saying goodbye to the places I cherish.

It means being in a constant state of fear that everything I’ve built here might shatter.

And I’m sure it feels exactly the same to EU pharmacists.

I love London and have no intention of leaving this amazing city. I work, pay my bills, recycle and do my best to treat this place and its people with the utmost respect. I’m sure that the majority, if not all, of the EU pharmacists on the GPhC’s register feel much the same.

Whether it’s me, EU pharmacists or any other EU nationals living in the UK, we shouldn’t be ‘bargaining chips’ in the Brexit negotiations.

The Government recently said the discussions with the EU are ‘progressing well’ and it ‘continues to work hard to seek a positive deal’. But there is still a long way to go before the millions of EU citizens living and working in the UK can breathe a sigh of relief.

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